Could eye drops replace presbyopia glasses?

It is estimated that at least 2.2 billion people have a visual impairment, of which 1 billion cases could have been prevented or have not yet been treated, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Among the most common vision conditions is presbyopia, which is the gradual loss of the ability to focus on nearby objects.

This disorder can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or surgeries, but new studies indicate that there could be a more accessible and cheaper option to combat it: eye drops. Here we tell you more:

Difficulty focusing on nearby objects or words in computers and books may be due to the hardening of the clear lens of the eye caused by presbyopia, which eventually loses its flexibility.

Presbyopia is gradual and begins to appear between the ages of 40 and 45, worsening when you reach 65. Among the main symptoms is a tendency to hold reading material further to see the letters more clearly, blurred vision at a normal reading distance or eye strain and headaches after reading or doing detailed work.

A doctor should be consulted if diffuse or blurred vision is experienced, if this interferes with routine, if there is a sudden loss of vision in one eye with or without eye pain, flashes of light, black dots or halos are seen around the lights or double vision. These signs can be made worse by being tired or doing activities in dimly lit environments.

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To treat presbyopia, experts may recommend the use of bifocal glasses, where the upper part of the lens allows distance vision while the lower part is more suitable for close-up, contact lenses, where one eye wears a prescription lens for vision distance and the other for close-up vision, or surgery, where radiofrequency waves are used to create more curvature of the cornea, thereby improving near vision.

Another option that is being developed to manage this problem is eye drops. According to a publication from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), two types are in clinical trials where their safety and efficacy are being tested in humans:

  • Miotic drops: they restore the contraction of the pupil, limiting the information that is out of focus. Currently, at least three companies are developing them: Allergan, which is already in phase 3 testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Presbyopia Therapies and Orasis Pharmaceuticals, which have completed phase 2b testing.
  • Drops that soften the lens: help restore its flexibility, and although they do not fully restore near vision, they can restore the visual ability for up to 10 years. Novartis has developed the first lens softening drop and is conducting Phase 2 testing.

Although analysis remains to be done, the researchers maintain that the effects of miotic drops would begin 30 minutes after application, with an approximate duration of 7 hours, while those that soften the lens can continue to act for several years. It was found that those who used either of these two types of drops gained up to 7 lines of near vision, that is, as much as what you get with reading glasses.

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The possible side effects of its use are still being studied, among which headaches, limitations of night vision, or problems to differentiate an object from its background have already been recorded.

What are eye drops

Ophthalmic drops or eye drops are sterile, aqueous or oily solutions, with one or more active ingredients, intended for installation in the eye.

They should be stored in a cool, dry place protected from light at room temperature (unless indicated for storage in the refrigerator). Experts highlight the risks of contamination at the time of use and the serious danger that this can pose, so they advise washing your hands before handling them and avoid that the tip of the applicator touches the surfaces of the eye.

They must be discarded four weeks after being opened, or at the end of the treatment if it is of shorter duration unless the container specifies otherwise. Otherwise, they could become contaminated.

To facilitate its application, it is advisable to tilt the head back and towards the side of the eye where the drops will be administered, and lower the lower eyelid, depositing the medication in the cavity that is formed. After placing the exact number of drops prescribed, blink a couple of times to spread the drops over the entire surface of the eye. It is recommended to close the eye for a few minutes, to clean the excess liquid from spilling. Once finished, it is common to have blurred vision for a few seconds or minutes, therefore, activities that require visual acuity should be avoided.

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It is important to remember that whatever treatment is used to combat presbyopia, it must be recommended by an ophthalmologist. Each person’s eyes are unique, therefore glasses, contact lenses, surgery, or eye drops will have their pros and cons. To determine the best option, a comprehensive medical exam will be performed to assess the health of the eye.

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