Orthokeratology (Ortho-k) Contact Lenses
Although orthokeratology is a treatment that has been available for over 40 years, there is increasing recent interest in the last decade.
This is a revolutionary non-surgical technology in which contact lenses are designed to safely and gradually reshape the curvature of the front surface of the eye (the cornea) to improve or eliminate nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism and presbyopia.
These are rigid gas permeable contact lenses that are designed to be worn overnight while sleeping. While you are sleeping, the lenses gently reshape the front surface of the eye. They are removed upon awakening and provide clear vision without using glasses or contact lenses during waking hours.
Other benefits of Ortho-k Lens include:
- Natural vision for recreation, sports and leisure is dramatically enhanced.
- Provides good unaided vision for occupations that require it such as pilots, policemen, firefighters or any jobs that require better visual acuity.
- Patients who participate in sports can have visual freedom, not needing to rely on eyeglasses or conventional contact lenses while playing.
Ortho-k lenses are also called “corneal reshaping contact lenses”. Only highly breathable lenses that have been FDA approved for overnight wear are used for orthokeratology.
Ortho-k Lens Fitting Process
We begin the fitting process by measuring the curvatures of your corneas using an instrument called a corneal topographer. This is a painless procedure that takes less than a minute and provides a map of the front surface of the eye. We then custom design the lenses based on this and other measurements taken at the office. You may need a series of temporary lenses to see properly until you reach the desired prescription. In most cases, up to three pairs of lenses are required to achieve the maximum vision correction effect. As the vision improves over time, changes may be made to the lenses and the patient’s vision will continue to improve.
Until your eyes are fully corrected, you might notice blurred vision and glare and halos around lights. When you begin to wear ortho-k lenses, you will likely have some awareness of the lenses on your eyes until you fall asleep. With time, the lenses typically become more comfortable immediately upon insertion.
Post Ortho-k Lens Treatment
Toward the end of the treatment, these contact lenses are retainer lenses and are only worn to maintain the improved vision. The amount of time that these retainer lenses need to be worn differs for each patient but it usually ranges from several hours two or three times per week to several hours every night. These Ortho-k lenses are comfortable and maintenance is easy. With this treatment, the vast majority of people achieve dramatic improvements in their vision, allowing them to function without glasses or contact lenses. The vision improves over days or weeks and the best results are obtained for people with mild to moderate amounts of nearsightedness or astigmatism. Generally, ortho-k can correct up to -6.00 diopters of myopia. The amount of refractive error that can be effectively managed with orthokeratology differs for every patient. This treatment can be used at any age and is completely reversible and free of surgical risk. Because the corneal reshaping effect is temporary, little risk is involved and you can stop at any time – provided you are willing to start wearing glasses or contacts again when the myopia returns! Orthok is appropriate for all ages. In fact, today, this is the most effective method of slowing down progressive myopia in children.
We usually aim for 20/20 vision after ortho-k. Fitting ortho-k lenses is a more time- consuming process and requires more expertise than fitting regular contact lenses. It requires a series of office visits and potentially multiple sets of lenses. Patients need to be seen regularly to ensure that their lenses are fitting well and that their eyes are remaining healthy.
The ability to improve a patient’s vision and quality of life with orthokeratology is one of the most exciting developments in the field of eye care today. With newer diagnostic technology and newer lens materials, orthokeratology is a viable alternative to invasive surgery.