FDA approves eye drops that could replace reading glasses | Living

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved eye drops that could replace reading glasses for some people.

In what could be a game-changer, the new eye drops could help the millions of Americans who suffer from presbyopia, which is the gradual loss of the eyes’ ability to focus on near objects. Presbyopia is a natural and annoying part of aging and usually begins to become noticeable when many people reach their mid-40s.

Many people may find that the text they are trying to read seems blurry, causing them to hold things at arm’s length in order to read them. The condition normally continues to get worse until people reach around the age of 65.

What causes the blur?

Just like the rest of the body, part of the eyes lose their elasticity with age. Dr. Deval Paranjpe, corneal and external disease specialist with Allegheny Ophthalmic and Orbital Associates, based at AHN’s Allegheny General Hospital, said presbyopia comes with age.

“When we are born, the lens of our eye is flexible – it can swell and flatten to allow us to focus both near and far,” Paranjpe said. “As we age, the protein structure of the lens of the eye changes so that the lens becomes harder and less flexible. The muscles that stretch and relax the lens have to work much harder, which causes eye strain, so it becomes more difficult for many of us to read things up close as we enter our 40s.

How do the drops work?

The new eye drops are marketed as Vuity and are actually a form of a drug called pilocarpine which has been used for decades.

“Pilocarpine eye drops were once a commonly used treatment for glaucoma, so it’s very exciting to see this drug return in a new role,” Paranjpe said. “Presbyopia is a widespread and bothersome phenomenon that affects most people over the age of 42. So far, no eye drops have been approved to help relieve presbyopia.”

Vuity is a prescription eye drop that uses a special formulation and dose of pilocarpine found to achieve temporary improvement in near vision in patients ages 40 to 55 with mild to moderate presbyopia, Paranjpe said.

The researchers conducted what they called the Gemini 1 and 2 studies in which they looked at a total of 750 patients randomized to receive either Vuity eye drops or a placebo. Vuity is taken only once a day in each eye, reaches its maximum effectiveness in one hour and the effect lasts around six hours – diminishing over time.

“It works by narrowing the pupil and creating a pinhole effect to improve near and intermediate vision,” Paranjpe said. “The ideal patient for this decline would be someone between the ages of 40 and 55 who needs mild to moderate reading correction and little or no distance vision correction.”

The ideal Vuity user would be reading or using a computer for long periods during the day and would not have certain other eye conditions. In other words, the target market is the average office worker.

How effective and safe is it?

Gout is effective, but you should be aware of potential side effects and do’s and don’ts before using it.

“The drop has a dimming effect and should not be used in low light conditions, especially when doing anything potentially dangerous (like driving at night or operating machinery),” Paranjpe said. “Accommodative spasm (problem with shifting focus between near and far objects) can also occur, so avoid driving or operating machinery if your vision is unclear when using the drop.”

She added that some people may report poorer distance vision when using the drop, as it can shift the eye to a more nearsighted state. Patients can wear contact lenses to correct other vision problems while using the drops, but should wait at least 10 minutes after using the drops to put in their lenses.

When it comes to long-term security concerns regarding Vuity, there are a few questions.

“The Gemini studies were only 30-day studies,” Paranjpe said, “so long-term safety data is not yet available. Pilocarpine, the active ingredient in Vuity, has been associated with detachment of the retina, inflammation and scarring inside the eye in some people in the past.

For this reason, Paranjpe said patients who have additional eye problems like pre-existing retinal problems, significant myopia, eye inflammation like iritis or uveitis, or narrow angles should not use the eye drops.

Vuity has also not been studied in pregnant or breastfeeding patients. Prospective patients should ask their eye doctor for a review to see if they are a reasonable candidate for Vuity.

Although these drops are the first on the market approved for temporarily improving near vision, they are certainly not suitable for all patients. Other solutions include reading glasses, bifocal/progressive glasses, and contact lens solutions like multifocals and monovision.

Unfortunately, surgery cannot solve the problem of presbyopia.

“Corneal refractive surgery like LASIK or PRK is not a good long-term option for presbyopia because it reshapes the cornea but doesn’t fix the lens, which continues to harden,” Paranjpe said. “Cataract surgery with multifocal lens implants or monovision may be a solution to presbyopia for some patients once they have visually significant cataracts.”

Paranjpe said Vuity could be an exciting development and many more eye care advancements are on the horizon.

“No two people are the same, and not all treatments may be right for you depending on your individual medical and surgical eye conditions,” Paranjpe said. “Get regular checkups and ask your eye doctor to discuss whether treatments that include Vuity may be right for you.”

About Marion Alexander

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