If you find yourself approaching middle age and preparing for the challenges that come with getting older, but you aren’t quite ready to resign yourself to reading glasses just yet, a new FDA-approved eye drop called Vuity that promises to treat blurry near vision is now available by prescription.
It’s estimated that a quarter of the world’s population is affected by the condition known as presbyopia, which is one of the many unfortunate side effects of aging that typically starts affecting people in their 40s. The condition limits a person’s ability to focus on nearby objects, such as small print, requiring them to move text—be it in a book, a newspaper, or on a smartphone—farther away from their eyes until it’s no longer blurred and illegible. It’s caused by the eye losing elasticity in its lens that allows it to change focus, as well as a weakening of the muscles that control the lens, resulting in incoming light not being properly focused on the retina.
Although LASIK surgery is an expensive option many people choose to treat presbyopia, the cost-effective alternative for most is a simple one: the use of temporary reading glasses to improve their close-up vision. But there’s now another way to mitigate the effects of presbyopia: the use of eye drops once every morning.
The active ingredient in Vuity is pilocarpine, which is often used to treat dry mouth because it stimulates the production of saliva, but it also causes the eye to reduce the size of the pupil’s opening. Like reducing the size of the aperture on a camera, this increases the eye’s depth of field, resulting in more of what’s seen being in focus, including close-up objects.
In human studies where a total of 750 participants aged 40-55 diagnosed with presbyopia were either given Vuity or a placebo, those using the Vuity eye drops gained the ability to read three or more additional lines of text on an optometrist’s reading chart (where each subsequent line contains smaller and smaller samples of text) and maintain those improvements after 30 days of use without affecting distance vision. However, Vuity was found to be considerably less helpful for patients over 65, who would need to rely on more traditional approaches to correcting vision issues.
The studies were conducted three hours after doses were administered, and it takes about that long for the full effect of Vuity to kick in, but the effect typically lasts for about a full day, which means the eye drops really only need to be applied once every morning. A reduction in pupil size does mean less light is entering the eye and hitting the retina, but it shouldn’t have an effect on users’ vision, given the eye’s impressive ability to adapt to changing lighting conditions. However, Allergan Eye Care, the company behind Vuity, does urge users to use “caution when driving at night or performing hazardous activities in poor lighting.” Other side effects included headaches and eye redness, which appeared in less than 5% of the study’s participants, and Allergan recommends first removing contact lenses before using Vuity and waiting 10 minutes until after the drops have been applied to reinsert them.
Vuity is currently only available as a prescription medication through an eye doctor for patients who’ve been diagnosed with presbyopia.