Orthokeratology, commonly called ortho-k, is a method used to correct myopia (nearsightedness) by wearing rigid gas permeable contact lenses overnight, so that no vision correction is needed during daytime hours.
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Gas permeable (GP) lenses specialized for ortho-k are inserted at bedtime and worn as you sleep. Throughout the night, the lenses reshape your cornea gently so that your vision becomes clear on the following morning. The correction is temporary, and ideally no eyeglasses or contact lenses will be needed on the next day or two. In order to maintain sharp visual acuity on a daily basis, you need to wear the ortho-k reshaping lenses every night.
At present, two brands of ortho-k contact lenses are approved for use by the FDA. Paragon Vision Sciences produces “Corneal Refractive Therapy” (CRT), and Bausch and Lomb manufactures “Vision Shaping Treatment” (VST).
Candidates for Ortho-K
Ortho-k is very suitable for nearsighted people who are not appropriate candidates for vision correction surgery, such as children. Individuals of all ages with healthy eyes can try ortho-k, namely because it can be discontinued at any point without permanent effects to the eyes.
People who require vision correction and engage regularly in sports or work in extremely dusty, dirty environments will also appreciate the convenience of ortho-k.
Vision Results from Ortho-k
Success rates for ortho-k are generally higher for more mild vision prescriptions. The ideal goal is to provide 20/20 vision without any need for eyeglasses or contacts during the day.
According to FDA trials conducted on both CRT and VST lenses, more than 65% of ortho-k patients were provided with 20/20 visual acuity. A whopping number of more than 90% of ortho-k patients achieved 20/40 vision or better (this is the legal requirement for driving without vision correction in most states). Consult with your eye doctor to find out if your vision prescription is within range for successful ortho-k treatment.
Note that although improvement in vision is generally reported within a day or two of wearing ortho-k overnight, the full effects may not be experienced until the lenses are worn for a few weeks. During this transition period, your vision will probably not be as crisp as it was with regular contacts or eyeglasses, and glare or halos around lights may be visible. Until ortho-k works fully, a temporary pair of eyeglasses may be required for specific actions, such as driving at night.
How Does Ortho-k Feel?
Although some people have trouble wearing regular gas permeable contact lenses during the day, ortho-k GP lenses are worn while sleeping – so discomfort and awareness of the lenses in your eyes is generally not an issue.
Is Ortho-k expensive?
Professional fitting for ortho-k requires a series of visits to your eye doctor. A number of pairs of contact lenses are also generally needed. GP lenses that are special for ortho-k are more costly than standard contacts. In sum, the fees for ortho-k add up to a higher total than regular contact lenses.
LASIK after Ortho-k
Refractive surgeries, such as LASIK, are possible after treatment with ortho-k lenses. Yet because ortho-k works to reshape your cornea, you are required to stop wearing the lenses for approximately several months before undergoing LASIK. This allows your eyes to return to their original shape.
It’s important to inform your LASIK surgeon if you’ve been wearing ortho-k lenses, and you will be advised as to how long of a wait is necessary before having the laser procedure.
During high school, as I began spending more time on the computer, I realized that my eyesight was deteriorating. Concerned about maintaining my vision, my doctor recommended that I begin using gas permeable lenses at bedtime. I’ve been using gas permeable lenses for over 5 years now and I absolutely love them. When I first started wearing them it took a little bit of time getting used to wearing lenses to sleep. But after getting used to the initial feeling of overnight lenses, I began appreciating not having to worry about contacts in the day. All I have to do is take them off in the morning and I’m good to go! As a college student with busy and often long days, it’s nice to not have to think about changing my contacts during the day or dealing with dry eyes.
Like most contact lens users, I started out with soft lenses. However, after learning about contacts that I would sleep in, I decided to give them a try. I have now been using gas permeable lenses for 6 years and my nearsightedness has not progressed since wearing them. Not only are they effective, but they’re also extremely convenient to use.
Back when I was in middle school, I wast told that I could wear glasses or soft contact lenses to see the board in class. I chose the soft lenses because I didn’t like how I looked with glasses. The soft contacts were great, but had one major problem…they would always get dry towards the end of the day. When Dr. Yamanaka told me about the correctional hard contact lenses, I was hesitant to sleep with hard contact in my eye. Ultimately I decided to give it a try because I could no longer very comfortable with my soft contact lenses. The correctional lenses took a few days to get used to, and were uncomfortable at first because my eyes were not used to it. After a week of use though, there was no more discomfort, and they naturally became part of my daily routine before going to bed. Fast forward 11 years, and am still currently wearing them to sleep every night. Having the freedom to not depend on contacts or glasses throughout my day has been a game changer for me.