A new eye drop can treat age-related blurry vision. What to know

The drops, called Vuity, are for daily use and are now available with a prescription in the US. Find out how they work, prices and more.

Jessica Rendall Wellness Writer
Jessica is a writer on the Wellness team with a focus on health news. Before CNET, she worked in local journalism covering public health issues, business and music.
Expertise Medical news, pregnancy topics and health hacks that don't cost money Credentials
  • Added coconut oil to cheap coffee before keto made it cool.
Jessica Rendall
3 min read
Getty Images

Growing older and needing reading glasses have often gone hand in hand, but it might not need to anymore. 

In October, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Vuity, an eye drop used to treat presbyopia, or age-related blurry near vision. In early December, the drops became available at pharmacies with a prescription for people with age-related blurry vision – the first medication of its kind to treat the condition.

Dr. Christopher Starr, an ophthalmologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said in an email he's prescribed them to patients and has also been using them himself. 

"They work," Starr said. 

Here's what we know, and what we don't, about the new eye drops. 

What is age-related blurry vision? 

With presbyopia, or age-related blurry vision, a person has problems seeing objects up close as their eyes gradually lose the ability to focus. It usually becomes noticeable in your early-to-mid 40s and continues to worsen up to age 65, according to the Mayo Clinic

Age-related blurry vision is a different condition than farsightedness (hyperopia), though the symptoms are similar. 

How do the eye drops work? How effective are they?

The eye drops are approved for use once per day (one drop in each eye). They start working as soon as 15 minutes after they've been administered and can last up to six hours. 

Starr said the eye drops work similar to a camera aperture, constricting our pupil to increase the depth of focus. "Similar to a photograph in which the foreground and background are both in focus," he said. 

When our pupil diameter is constricted, "we increase our depth of focus without sacrificing our distance vision," he said. 

The formula in the drop that can do this is called pilocarpine, which has been used in other medications, including some that treat the eye, according to Allergan's Vuity website. (Vuity is made by Allergan, an AbbVie company.) 

Prior to being approved, Vuity was studied in half of 750 study participants ages 40 to 55 who have presbyopia, according to Allergan's press release. Compared with the placebo group, "a statistically significant proportion of participants" were able to read three or more additional lines on a reading chart. The most common side effects were headache and eye redness (occurring in more than 5% of the participants), but there were no serious side effects reported. 

Watch this: How to choose between the Apple Watch 7 and SE

Will they work if I'm nearsighted or farsighted? 

Nearsightedness (myopia) is a completely different eye condition, where a person has trouble seeing in the distance but can see fine up close. The mechanism that makes the eye drops work would not work for people who are nearsighted.

Vuity's drops aren't made or approved to treat farsightedness, but it's possible they could be in the future. 

"I believe the drop can still be effective in some farsighted people, depending on their age and amount of hyperopia," Starr said. "But in general it will be more effective in younger and more mild presbyopic patients." He noted the clinical trial enrolled younger patients affected by presbyopia ages 40 to 55. 

Will the eye drops replace reading glasses? 

Probably not, but the people who use them might not need their reading glasses as much. 

"While the drops are in and active, many people will not need reading glasses," Starr said. But because the drops are approved for use only once per day and wear off about five or six hours later, he says, many people will need the glasses again. 

"The Vuity drops are simply another option in our toolbox," he said. 

Read more: Best places to buy glasses online

How can I try the eye drops?

Vuity's eye drops are prescription only. Talk to your eye doctor to find out whether you're eligible and get a prescription. 

How much do they cost?

An AbbVie spokesperson said that, for many patients, Vuity will cost $79 for a 30-day supply (a 2.5 milliliter bottle), which is significantly pricier than reading glasses or most contact lenses. However, that pricing may vary depending on the pharmacy or insurance coverage.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.