A new once-a-day eye drop treatment can help people see up close without affecting their long-distance vision, making it a potential alternative to reading glasses for millions of people, Melinda Wenner Moyer reports for the New York Times.
Millions of Americans suffer from age-related vision problems
According to Moyer, 128 million Americans have age-related deficits that affect their close-range vision. In particular, almost 90% of U.S. adults over 45 have presbyopia, a condition that affects the ability to see objects up close.
The condition, which usually worsens over time, affects the ability of the eye's lens to change shape—an action that allows the eye to focus on close objects. According to Scott MacRae, an ophthalmologist at the Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester, a person’s "ability to zoom in" decreases with age.
People who have presbyopia often need to hold a book at arm's length or turn on a bright light to read it, Moyer writes. Usually, doctors will recommend people with presbyopia wear over-the-counter or prescription reading glasses when they need to see something up close.
However, reading glasses can sometimes be inconvenient, Moyer writes. In addition to often being misplaced, reading glasses affect people's long-distance vision. This means that people have to take reading glasses off to see properly when doing other activities.
The eye drops that could reduce the need for reading glasses
A new once-a-day eye drop treatment called Vuity could be an alternative to reading glasses, Moyer writes. The treatment was first approved by FDA in late October and became available by prescription last week.
Vuity, which was developed by Allergan, improves close-range vision by constricting the size of the pupil. "It makes the pupil small, creating what we call a pinhole effect," which reduces the amount of peripheral light passing through the eye that can make it harder to focus, said Stephen Orlin, an ophthalmologist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
According to Orlin, Vuity's active ingredient, pilocarpine, is "one of the oldest drops that we have in ophthalmology." For decades, pilocarpine has been used to treat glaucoma, a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged, Moyer writes.
In a Phase 3 clinical trial of the treatment, a single drop in each eye improved participants' close-range vision for 6 hours and improved their intermediate vision, which is important when using computers, for 10 hours. Vuity did not impair participants' long-distance vision like reading glasses did.
"That's the good part about this—the drops don't really affect distance vision under normal daylight conditions," said MacRae, who was not involved in the clinical trial.
The side effects reported by trial participants were generally mild and included headaches, eye redness, blurred vision, eye pain, visual impairment, eye irritation, and increased tear production.
In general, MacRae said Vuity will work best for people with mild to moderate presbyopia, typically those between age 45 and 55. Older individuals or those with more severe presbyopia may not find the eye drops as helpful, Moyer writes.
In addition, George Waring IV, an ophthalmologist and medical director of the Waring Vision Institute who led Vuity's clinical trials, said the eye drops are not meant to completely replace people's reading glasses. Instead, the drops may reduce the amount of time people need to wear their reading glasses. He also warned that the treatment is not recommended for people who drive at night or need to see well in low light since it reduces pupil size, making it harder to see in the dark.
Currently, Vuity is the only product available to treat presbyopia, but at least nine other similar products are in clinical development and may be available in the future, Moyer writes. (Moyer, New York Times, 12/14)