It’s one of the more irritating side effects of aging: blurred close-up vision, or presbyopia. But a novel therapy, eyedrops that can improve near vision for hours, may help those who’ve gotten tired of wearing reading glasses.
Just approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Vuity's eyedrops have been found to work in as little as 15 minutes, with effects that last up to six hours, according to clinical trial data presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery this past summer.
“Vuity is the first and only FDA-approved prescription eyedrop treatment of presbyopia — an age-related blurring of near vision — in adults,” said Dr. George Waring, IV, a LASIK and cataract surgeon and director of the Waring Vision Institute in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Waring was a principal investigator for the clinical trials that led to the FDA’s approval of Vuity.
Who are these eyedrops for?
“Nearly half of the U.S. adult population currently lives with presbyopia,” Waring said. “And most people over 40 struggle with some age-related near vision loss.”
The clinical trials showed that the eyedrops were safe and well-tolerated, Waring said, adding that no serious adverse events occurred.
"This is for all patients between 40 and 55 years of age who have presbyopia," said Dr. Ralph Chu, an ophthalmologist based in Minnesota. "So, difficulty seeing near vision. It’s not just reading vision, but it’s our daily activities. It’s eating the food on our plate. It’s putting makeup on in the morning. It’s seeing the dashboard of your car."
How do Vuity eyedrops work?
The eyedrops contain a medication that has been used for more than a hundred years, at a higher concentration, to treat glaucoma, so it’s a drug that doctors have a lot of experience using. The low dose in the Vuity eyedrops works by temporarily decreasing the size of the pupil.
Waring compares this to changing the f-stop on a camera to decrease the size of the opening allowing light to pass to the film in older cameras. “It’s an age-old optical principle that by reducing the aperture extends the range of focus,” he said. “So this increases the ability to read close up while maintaining distance vision.”
Since the smaller pupil allows less light in, the drops are not recommended for use while driving at night, Waring said.
The clinical trials showed that people’s near vision improved. In fact, compared to those who received placebo eyedrops, 22.9% more of those treated with Vuity drops could read at least three more lines on an eye chart than they could before the treatment.
NBC News correspondent Kristen Dahlgren tried the eyedrops on TODAY. She said the drops burned a little going in and her eyes became red, but within 30 minutes her vision had drastically improved.
“I haven’t been able to read letters that small in years without glasses," Dahlgren said.
There are a number of products coming to market that improve close-up vision, said Dr. Tamiesha Frempong, an ophthalmologist with New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai and assistant professor in ophthalmology and pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
“This one constricts the pupil and expands depth of focus to see well at near distances without impacting distance vision or compromising peripheral vision,” Frempong said. “One thing we don’t know is if there will be any long-term consequences.”
An advantage of the drops over other therapies, such as surgery, is that you can stop it whenever you want, Frempong said.
“I’m really excited about them,” she added. “I would like to try it myself and would like to have my patients try it. Presbyopia affects so many people and really impacts their ability to function and their quality of life.”
A bottle of the eyedrops costs $80 and lasts about a month. They're available only by prescription and are not covered by health insurance.