You may rely on eye drops for a variety of reasons: to treat allergies, relieve dry eyes, treat minor infections, and possibly, to help minimize the effects of glaucoma. As shocking as it may sound, you’ll soon be able to add treating presbyopia to the list.
The development of presbyopia eye drops is potentially great news for the nearly two-billion people who suffer from the condition.
What is presbyopia?
Presbyopia is the age-related hardening of the lenses of the eyes which causes the ability to focus on up-close objects to become progressively worse. Estimated to affect over one-third of the population, presbyopia usually begins to develop around age 40.
If you’re just beginning to realize its effects, you’ll find yourself pushing things further from your eyes to try focus on something you’re attempting to read. Presbyopia is typically corrected with reading glasses, prescription glasses or contact lenses, or LASIK surgery.
Coming soon: presbyopia-correcting eye drops
Presbyopia-correcting eye drops aren’t available yet but it looks like it won’t be long now. They’re in Phase 2 and Phase 3 of clinical trials and have demonstrated to be successful in correcting near-vision vision impairment resulting from the hardening of the lens of your eyes.
It’s important to note, the corrective eye drops are not designed as a permanent fix for presbyopia. They’ll provide a temporary-use product that will help you focus on up-close objects without the assistance of prescription or reading glasses.
When the eye drops are approved for release, they could be the perfect option for people who are not ready (or interested in) LASIK surgery but also rather not wear glasses or contact lenses.
Two types of presbyopia-correcting eye drops
Two distinct types of eye drops for treating presbyopia are in development:
Miotic eye drops
Miotic eye drops reduce the effects of presbyopia by causing the pupil to constrict creating a “pinhole effect” (similar to decreasing the aperture in a camera). Depth of focus increases as the pupil constricts, which serves to improve the ability of the eye to focus up-close while not affecting the ability to see at a distance.
Again, miotic eye drops for presbyopia provide temporary relief. Initial research into the effectiveness of miotic eye drops indicates they take roughly thirty minutes to become fully effective and last for up to eight hours.
Lens-softening eye drops
This solution softens your lenses so they’re better able to adjust to focus on objects at different distances. Lens-softening drops aren’t able to completely reverse the effects of presbyopia, that is, restore the flexibility of the lenses. However, early results indicate they appear effective in softening the lens enough to significantly improve the eye’s ability to focus.
Lens-softening eye drops may continue working for several years. In trials, they have shown to potentially reverse aging and hardening of the lens by up to 10-years.
Common questions about presbyopia eye drops
Will it help to use BOTH types of eye drops?
For some, a combination of both types of eye drops may provide better near-vision. For others, one kind may be more effective. While there are hopes that using a combination of both types of drops will improve near vision even more, further research needs to be completed before arriving at a definitive conclusion.
Are there any side effects?
Some people report developing a headache after using the drops. Others have reported reduced vision at night in dim light. When the eye drops become available, you will need to consult with your optometrist if these side effects are an issue for you.
How much do the drops cost?
The eye drops are still being tested for their safety. We won’t know the true cost until they have been accepted as a proven treatment.
Will insurance cover the costs?
It’s unlikely your insurance will cover the cost of presbyopia eye drops.
When will the eye drops be available?
Initially, the release was planned for 2020, but with the year that was, things have been delayed.
The initial miotic presbyopia-correcting eye drops should be available with a prescription later this year and are believed to be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using prescription medication in the therapeutic treatment of presbyopia and other vision-related issues.
Note: Louise Wood contributed to this article.