Myopia sufferers rejoice: there is a non-invasive alternative to LASIK eye surgery! Orthokeratology, or Ortho-K, is an alternative treatment for myopia, or nearsightedness, that does not require surgery and allows patients to spend their days with improved vision without the use of glasses or daily contact lenses. Orthokeratology is a process by which your eyes are fitted with special gas permeable contact lenses that are worn overnight to reshape the surface of your eyes, thereby improving your vision during the day when the contacts are not being worn. This is a temporary solution to myopia that can be discontinued at any time with no negative side effects.
Who can do ortho-k?
Ortho-k is used to correct refractive errors. These include myopia (nearsightedness), astigmatism, and even some cases of presbyopia and hyperopia. Ortho-k is most often used to treat adult myopia and also to slow the progression of myopia in children. Ortho-k is a great option for anyone who suffers from myopia and does not want to wear contact lenses or glasses during the day, but is not quite ready for laser eye surgery. It is particularly useful for myopia suffers who cannot easily wear glasses or contacts, such as athletes or those who work in environments where lots of debris is present. Ortho-k is not permanent. You can stop wearing the contact lenses at any time to allow your myopia to return to its original state.
Ortho-k is a great option for children who suffer from nearsightedness. As children are not candidates for laser eye surgery, this offers an alternative to eyeglasses or contact lenses and is thought to slow the progression of myopia. Once the eyes are closed for sleeping the contacts do not feel uncomfortable so children are able to wear them. It is an easy addition to their bedtime routine and allows them to skip the glasses in the morning while still slowing the progression of myopia.
How does ortho-k work?
Ortho-k works by reshaping the eye’s cornea overnight. The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye. It is responsible for allowing light into the eye and also makes up most of the eye’s focusing power. Refractive errors are often due to the cornea being misshapen. The cornea is the source of myopia and other refractive errors. The cornea is malleable and it is able to be reshaped overnight by the ortho-k contact lenses. Reshaping the cornea corrects the refractive errors and improves vision during the day when the contact lenses are not being worn. Many patients are able to achieve 20/20 vision during the day by using ortho-k. The lenses must be worn each night to reshape the cornea, with results lasting 24-48 hours. After this period of time, the cornea returns to its natural shape and refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, return.
How to get fitted for ortho-k
Your optometrist may be able to fit you for ortho-k lenses, or will be able to recommend another optometrist who specializes in them. For the fitting, your doctor will need to make a topographical map of your corneas. This is a painless and quick process that shows your doctor the exact shape of your cornea. Using this, they will be able to fit you for contacts that will improve your vision overnight. Ortho-k lenses are different than regular contact lenses. These special lenses may require more frequent visits to your eye doctor to be perfected and maintained. If you think that you may be a good candidate for ortho-k lenses, reach out to your eye care professional.