This might be the most exciting news I've heard for my patients in their 40s and above. There could be prescription eye drops to help restore reading vision in the coming years!
For those of you who are under 40 and are unaware, a condition called "presbyopia" occurs sometime in your 40s. When you view something up close, a natural lens inside your eye changes shape to focus on that object or text.
When presbyopia hits, that lens becomes less flexible and the muscle that controls it does not function as well. This leads to blurred vision up close.
Currently, our treatments for correcting presbyopia are glasses or contact lenses, or perhaps surgical treatments that have somewhat guarded success rates. New research is being done, however, on prescription eye drops to help restore near vision to people with presbyopia.
There are at least four different combinations of pharmaceuticals being studied. None of the proposed medications would be a permanent fix, but rather a drop that you would apply at least once a day.
For some formulations, the effects last only four to six hours, so presumably you would take it multiple times a day. Some of the drops work by constricting the pupil to create a pinhole effect along with stimulating the muscle, which focuses the crystalline lens in the eye; others attempt to restore the natural flexibility of the lens to change shape and focus properly.
So far, no major side effects have been listed, and distance vision has been relatively unaffected. Regardless, these drops are still a few years away from possible FDA approval.
As optometrists and ophthalmologists, our biggest concern is the health of the eye. One other positive that could come of these drops is that patients would be more faithful about yearly checkups to renew the medication prescription. This regular exam would help us catch early signs of eye disease.
With reading glasses, many people go for years without getting their eyes examined. There are times where we see eye diseases that should have been treated earlier, but weren't diagnosed until later because the patient did not come in annually.
Presbyopia is inevitable if you keep having birthdays! Nearsighted people are often fortunate enough to be able to take off their glasses and still read. Taking glasses off and on all day and putting on reading glasses can be a nuisance.
Technology and research might soon allow us a new option to combat issues with focusing up close. That is exciting news.
Caroline Bundrick, O.D. is an optometrist practicing at Darling Eye Center, with offices in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island.