Eye Drops Instead of Glasses for Reading?

Eye Drops Instead of Glasses

Keeping a bottle of miotic drops in your bag that replace easily misplaced glasses or troublesome contact lenses sounds very convenient for more than 2 billion people worldwide who suffer from presbyopia – a gradual, age-related loss of near vision.

The lens of the eye must change shape in order to concentrate on nearby objects. But, as we age, the lens loses some of its pliability, making this process more challenging. People with presbyopia often have to lift the book over their heads or use a bright light to read comfortably. 

This is a common condition. If you have it, your eye doctor will likely prescribe reading glasses or contact lenses. But now, eye drops are also an option. However, are they suitable replacements for conventional eyewear? Will we use eye drops instead of glasses for reading soon?

Using Two Types of Eye Drops Instead of Reading Glasses

Presbyopia develops when the eye’s clear lens tightens and loses mobility over time. This condition makes it difficult to concentrate on words on a page or on a smartphone. It can be addressed by two types of eye drops – miotic and lens-softening ones – each with its own mechanism.

  • Miotic drops change the pupil’s size and are able to increase ciliary body tone. Just like the original film camera, “camera obscura” creates a pin-hole effect that maximizes near and far focus. 
  • Lens-softening drops, as their name states, soften the eye’s aging lens. What they do is enable the lens to gain more flexibility. Even though they can’t completely restore near vision, they serve as a perfect treatment for people in the beginning stages of presbyopia. 

The Medicine Behind the Eye Drops

Even though this kind of remedy is quite new to the market, it relies on one of the oldest medications in ophthalmology – pilocarpine. This drug has been utilized for ages to treat glaucoma, a disorder characterized by optical nerve damage.

Creating the pinhole effect in the eyes, pilocarpine reduces the amount of light passing through the eye, making it easier to focus on near objects. 

The FDA has already approved several eyedrop remedies, but the real question is – do they work as well as, for example, prismatic lens glasses?

The Standalone Effect of Eyedrops

A drop of miotic remedy improves close-range vision for four to seven hours. Also, it doesn’t impair distance vision like regular glasses tend to do. Typically, when a person stops reading to perform another task, they must remove their reading glasses in order to see clearly. 

With miotic drops, distance vision in regular daylight is not affected, which makes them even more convenient. On the contrary, the effect of lens-softening drops can continue for years ahead, making the lens more flexible over time.  

However, even though using eye drops instead of glasses really sounds amazing, they aren’t able to correct regular farsightedness, nearsightedness, or astigmatism. 

Substituting Glasses or Just Complementing Them?

So, at the end – can you use eye drops instead of glasses? Scientists and doctors behind the FDA-approved remedies claim that the drops were not entirely made to replace reading glasses. Instead, they are destined to reduce the amount of time people need to wear them.

These drops have shown the best results for patients between 40 and 55. They claimed to see results in less than 20 minutes after putting them in. It is essential to remember, however, that the response will vary from person to person based on many factors, including baseline near vision.

Some patients are prescribed miotic or lens-softening drops in order to maximize their vision, while others benefit more from one type than the other. But, additional caution is advised since miotic drops that narrow the pupil can create negative effects in patients suffering from an early cataract. 

Another important factor in considering this kind of remedy is its side effects. Eye drops create temporary, mild problems with switching focus between far and near objects. A smaller percentage of subjects that took miotic eye drops experienced eye redness, irritation, and mild headaches. Still, everyone using them is advised to avoid driving at night or performing any kind of hazardous activity in low light settings. 


Choosing eye drops instead of glasses won’t be the ultimate way of correcting your vision. Although eye drops may be the most cost-effective long-term treatment for presbyopia, certain patients, such as those requiring bifocals or multifocal or prefer luxurious designer frames, may not agree.

Whatever your choice, the most important step is to have a comprehensive eye exam first. That way, your eye doctor can advise you if taking this kind of remedy is recommended for your condition. If not, there is more harm than benefits, so consult your doctor and decide based on your needs.