What Is VUITY the FDA-approved Eye Drop for Age-related Nearsightedness—Presbyopia?

If you suffer from age-related blurry vision, here's everything you need to know about the medication, VUITY.

Eye drops meant to treat presbyopia, or age-related blurry near vision, are available by prescription in pharmacies across the US. The treatment, called VUITY, is the first and only prescription for treating the condition, according to a press release issued by pharmaceutical company Allergan.

In October 2021, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved VUITY for use to treat presbyopia in adults. The approval followed phase 3 clinical studies of the eye drops that showed the drops worked in as little as 15 minutes, with effects lasting for up to six hours.

The prescription treatment was hailed as a "significant innovation in age-related eye health," per the press release. As the first and only eye drop approved by the FDA to treat a condition that affects 1.8 billion people around the world, per a March 2022 Ophthalmology and Therapy article, it's likely that anyone affected by the condition may be curious to know how VUITY works, and when they may be able to start using the drops for themselves. Here's what you need to know.

new eye drops get rid of the need for reading glasses
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What Is Presbyopia, and Who Does It Affect?

"Presbyopia, or age-related blurry near vision, is a common, progressive condition that reduces the eye's ability to focus on near objects and affects nearly half of the US adult population, usually over age 40," Selina McGee, OD, a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, told Health.

The issue of presbyopia stems from the lenses in your eyes: A clear lens sits behind your iris (the colored part of your eye) and is flexible enough to change shape to focus light onto the retina so you can see, the AAO says. The lenses of younger people are soft and flexible, but as you age—particularly after 40—the lens becomes more rigid and doesn't change shape as easily.

As a result, it becomes harder for you to see clearly up close. With presbyopia, you may also need brighter lighting while reading, or you may begin holding books or the newspaper at an arm's length to read easier, Dr. McGee said.

The condition tends to occur more in women as noted in a Clinical Ophthalmology article published in May 2021. Still, it can affect so many people because it's a normal part of aging, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). (The term "presbyopia" actually comes from the Greek word meaning "old eye.")

Furthermore, even though presbyopia affects almost every person, you might be at a higher risk of developing the condition earlier. Per Johns Hopkins Medicine, the following are considered risk factors:

  • Being farsighted
  • Taking certain medication (e.g., for allergies, ADHD, or depression)
  • Having anemia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or some cardiac or neurological conditions
  • Experiencing premature menopause
  • Having had prior eye or head trauma
  • Having had early lens-based surgery (e.g., cataract surgery)

How Does VUITY Work?

Before VUITY, if your only vision problem was presbyopia, the best way to treat it was to use reading glasses, the AAO says. Other options for those with other vision problems include bifocals, trifocals, and progressive lenses for glasses as well as monovision or multifocal contact lenses.

According to the press release, VUITY's formulation helps treat presbyopia by allowing it to adjust the physiologic pH of the tear film in your eyes, which assists in focusing light so you can see clearly, among other things, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). This helps the eye's own ability to reduce pupil size and is important because if your pupil is too big, it can affect your ability to see up close, Dr. McGee said.

According to the prescribing information, the recommended dose for VUITY is one drop in each eye daily, but there are additional precautions to take if you use other topical eye medications or contact lenses. For example, it's advised to wait five minutes between topical eye treatments, and 10 minutes before putting contacts in. Also, there were no serious adverse events in any clinical trial participants, per the press release, though mild side effects like headache and eye redness were infrequently reported.

While VUITY does offer another option to patients who suffer from presbyopia, it isn't intended to act as a total replacement for your reading glasses. The VUITY site cautions that the product may lead to dim or dark vision temporarily. Additionally, the makers of VUITY warned users to "use caution when driving at night or performing hazardous activities in poor lighting" in the press release, in addition to advising against driving and using machinery if your vision isn't clear. So, while you should definitely talk to your doctor if your close-up vision is blurry and you think you might be a good candidate for VUITY, keep your reading glasses handy in case you need them along with the eye drops.

How Can You Get VUITY if You Suffer From Presbyopia?

If you're interested in trying VUITY, your first step should be setting up an appointment with your eye doctor, Dr. McGee said: "People who are interested in trying VUITY should talk to their eye care professional to see if VUITY is right for them." Doctors diagnose presbyopia through an eye exam—part of which will include a refraction assessment to measure how well you see objects at certain distances—according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. If your doctor thinks VUITY could help you, they can write you a prescription for the drug.

Furthermore, VUITY costs about $80 per bottle, according to the product's website, which also reported that insurance companies aren't likely to cover the prescription medication.

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