What Is the Patient Experience with Overnight Vision Correction (Orthokeratology)?
Many patients are drawn to the idea of overnight vision correction, and it isn’t difficult to see why. The prospect of being able to put in a pair of contact lenses before you go to bed, drift off to sleep while wearing them, and then have clear vision when you remove the lenses in the morning is hugely appealing. In particular, our team at Miami Contact Lens Institute has found that these overnight vision correction treatments—known as “orthokeratology”—are especially popular among athletes, pilots, or other individuals who require clear vision but for whom wearing glasses or even contacts isn’t an ideal option. In this post, we will explore orthokeratology more deeply, particularly concerning the typical patient experience that this type of vision treatment provides.
Orthokeratology lenses (or ortho-k lenses) are a special type of rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lens. In most cases, you’d wear RGP lenses throughout your waking hours to enjoy effective vision correction, just as you would wear glasses or traditional soft contact lenses. With ortho-k lenses, though, the schedule is just the opposite. You put these lenses in your eyes before you go to sleep each night and wear them throughout the night. While you are sleeping, the lenses gently reshape the surface of your eye (your cornea) as the hours pass. The idea is that, in the morning, the lenses will have changed the corneal curvature such issues such as myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, presbyopia, or other refractive errors will be corrected. As a result, the patient can theoretically enjoy clear vision without needing to wear glasses or contact lenses.
Related Post: Hyperopia and Myopia: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment
The Patient Experience
Because ortho-k lenses are different from the types of contact lenses with which most people are familiar, we tend to get many questions concerning what it’s like to wear them. Here are a few pros and cons to help you understand the patient experience surrounding ortho-k treatments:
- Pro: you’ll enjoy unassisted vision. The most significant benefit of orthokeratology is the ability to see clearly without the need for wearing glasses or contacts—at least during the waking hours. For athletes, especially, this is a huge benefit. Wearing glasses during a demanding athletic event is difficult due to the risk of them falling off, being broken, fogged-up or otherwise getting in the way. Wearing contact lenses is better, but can cause some discomfort if sweat, dirt, or other debris get into the eye. With orthokeratology, someone with a vision problem can play sports without any vision assistance, which is a huge advantage.
- Con: it won’t work the same for everyone. Patients with more severe levels of vision disruption won’t see the same results from ortho-k lenses as those with more minor or moderate levels. It’s still worth a try, but if you have severe myopia (for instance), know that ortho-k might not necessarily be the big sweeping answer to the issue.
- Pro: the lenses are comfortable. Some patients worry that they will be uncomfortable wearing ortho-k lenses to bed. If you’ve ever fallen asleep without taking your contacts out, you probably share a similar concern. While you’ll need to get used to the feel of ortho-k lenses in your eyes as you drift off to sleep, the lenses are fairly comfortable. They don’t result in the kind of painful or irritating feel that some patients imagine when they picture their corneas being reshaped.
- Con: the results aren’t permanent. Orthokeratology is not a “cure” for myopia, astigmatism, or any of the other conditions it’s used to treat. Your corneas will gradually revert to their previous shape throughout the day. If you forget to wear your ortho-k lenses for a night, you will likely need to wear your glasses or contact lenses the next day. Those with more severe eye conditions may notice their vision degrading more quickly, to the point where the effects of ortho-k lenses are no longer noticeable by the evening. Over time, you may notice more lasting effects, but the results are never permanent. However, this for some may be considered an advantage. Permanent treatments can be scary. One of the advantages of ortho-k is that it can be discontinued at anytime and has no lasting effects. It is also free of surgical risk.
In general, the patients who are most satisfied with the experience of ortho-k treatment are the ones who 1) have relatively mild vision problems to begin with, 2) are very drawn to the idea of unassisted vision due to lifestyle factors, and 3) are good about establishing the habit for wearing the lenses every night. If you believe these three attributes describe you, contact Miami Contact Lens Institute today to learn more about orthokeratology.