Orthokeratology, also known as ortho-k, is a special non-surgical vision correction procedure involving special gas permeable contact lenses that are worn each night while you sleep, to gently reshape your cornea and correct your vision. The cornea is the front part of your eye that helps shape light as it enters. If the cornea is not shaped correctly, images become blurry and hard to discern. Ortho-K gently reshapes your cornea, giving it the proper shape to bend light to give you the best sight possible. The fact that this procedure takes place while you sleep means that each morning, when you wake up, all you need to do is take out your contact lenses and you are able to enjoy improved eyesight up to 20/20 all day.
How ortho-k works
The GP lenses for ortho-k are applied at bedtime and worn overnight. While you sleep, the lenses gently reshape the front surface of your eye (the cornea) to correct your vision, so you can see clearly without glasses or contact lenses when you’re awake. The cornea is the front part of your eye that helps shape light as it enters. If the cornea is not shaped correctly, images become blurry and hard to discern. Ortho-K gently reshapes your cornea, giving it the proper shape to bend light to give you the best sight possible. The fact that this procedure takes place while you sleep means that each morning, when you wake up, all you need to do is take out your contact lenses and you are able to enjoy improved eyesight up to 20/20 all day. The effect is temporary – generally enough to get you through a day or two – so you must wear the reshaping lenses each night to maintain good vision during the day.
Currently, there are two brands of orthokeratology approved by the FDA: Corneal Refractive Therapy (CRT) from Paragon Vision Sciences and Vision Shaping Treatment (VST) from Bausch & Lomb.
Who is a candidate for ortho-k?
Orthokeratology is frequently a good option for nearsighted individuals who are too young for LASIK surgery or for some other reason are not good candidates for vision correction surgery. Many people with mild to moderate nearsightedness, with or without astigmatism may benefit from the use of ortho-k lenses. Because it can be discontinued at any time without permanent change to the eye, people of any age can try the procedure, as long as their eyes are healthy. Although Ortho-k lenses are primarily prescribed to correct nearsightedness, they also may be used to correct astigmatism, farsightedness and, in some cases even presbyopia.
Ortho-k is particularly appealing for people who participate in sports, or who work in dusty, dirty environments that can make contact lens wear difficult. In addition, if you would like to be glasses and contacts free but are not an ideal candidate for refractive surgery either because of age or other eye conditions like dry eyes, you may still benefit from ortho-k.
What can you expect at an ortho-k fitting?
During your specialized ortho-k fitting, your eye doctor will ensure you are a good candidate for ortho-k lenses and make sure that the lenses are properly fitted for comfort and safety. The eye doctor will begin by obtaining measurements of your “corneal topography.” This procedure is painless and takes only about a minute. This gives the doctor a detailed picture of the unique topography of your eye. Your doctor will then either fit you from an in-office inventory of ortho-k lenses, or may order a custom pair for fitting at a later appointment. The first pair or two of lenses are usually temporary, in order to start the process of re-shaping your cornea. By the third pair, most people can expect to reach their fullest level of vision correction.
What results can you expect from ortho-k?
The goal for ortho-k is to correct your vision to 20/20 without eyeglasses or contact lenses during the day. In FDA trials of both CRT and VST lenses, more than 65% of patients were able to achieve 20/20 visual acuity after wearing the reshaping lenses overnight. More than 90% were able to see 20/40 or better (the legal vision requirement for driving without glasses in most states).
Success rates for ortho-k tend to be higher for mild prescriptions. Call our Premier offices to find out if your prescription is within the range that can be successfully treated with ortho-k.
How long does ortho-k take?
Though you may see some improvement in your vision after a day or two of overnight ortho-k, it can take several weeks for the full effect to be apparent. During this time, your vision will not be as clear as it was with glasses or contacts, and you are likely to notice some glare and halos around lights. It’s possible you may need a temporary pair of eyeglasses for certain tasks, like driving at night, until your vision is fully corrected by the ortho-k lenses.
Is ortho-k comfortable?
Some people have comfort issues when attempting to wear gas permeable contact lenses during the day. But since ortho-k GP lenses are worn during sleep, comfort and lens awareness are generally not a problem.
Cost of orthokeratology
Ortho-k is a significantly longer process than a regular contact lens fitting. It requires a series of office visits and potentially multiple pairs of lenses. Also, GP lenses used for ortho-k are more costly than most regular contact lenses. Therefore, fees for orthokeratology are higher than fees for regular contact lens fittings.
Can I have LASIK after ortho-k?
Yes, it’s possible to have LASIK surgery after orthokeratology. But because ortho-k lenses reshape your cornea, you must stop wearing the lenses for a period of time (usually several months) so your eyes can return to their original shape and stabilize. Be sure to tell your LASIK surgeon that you’ve worn ortho-k lenses, so they can advise you how long you should wait before having the surgery.
It is important to note that Ortho-k lenses are highly specialized and only specially certified optometrists are able to provide fittings for these lenses. For more information, and to see if ortho-k lenses are a suitable solution for you, contact our Premier offices today.