What is Orthokeratology?
Orthokeratology, or ortho-k, is the use of contact lenses to temporarily reshape the surface of the eye, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. People take ortho-k lenses to improve near vision (myopia), which is when people can see things close to them but find it difficult to see things from a distance.
Myopia occurs when the surface of the eye refracts light incorrectly. Although the use of glasses and LASIK surgery can address this, orthokeratology aims to flatten the cornea (or the transparent blister on the front of the eye that bends light in a way that helps you see), says Molly King. OD FAAO, ophthalmologist. “The cornea is responsible for most of the opacity in myopia,” explains Dr. King. Essentially, these “eye arms” work by correcting the distorted shape of the eye that causes blurred vision.
Not ideal for patients with hyperopia (hyperopia). This happens when the surface of the eye is very flat. Ortho-k helps to flatten a very steep curve, according to Dr. King, so because the insight comes from a very flat curve, helping to flatten the curve offered by these lenses would not help.
In addition, it may not be helpful for people with astigmatism because these vision problems result from internal eye lesions that are not related to corneal curvature. And if one has significant amounts of myopia, ortho-k may not work. The lenses can only correct so much myopia, and sometimes the cornea can be very flat, leaving not enough “meat” for the lenses to flatten.
Ortho-k can be “a good choice for those who live a more active lifestyle and do not want to deal with the hassle of contact lenses all day,” says Dr. King. For example, if there are people who lose, break or generally find the glasses annoying, this option may offer some freedom. He also says it is a popular choice for children with inherited vision problems that are likely to be progressive (based on their parents’s vision history).
What is it like to use ortho-k lenses
Although ortho-k lenses were developed in 1990 and have been widely used in the UK since 2002, their acquisition in the US is not easy. There are a few hoops to go through to make sure you have the right fit that will really help your eyesight. Most US insurance programs consider these lenses optional and do not offer coverage. And orthokeratology can be expensive, costing between $ 1,000 and $ 4,000, according to VisionCenter.org. In most cases, it is not covered by insurance and is out of pocket for most people and insurance programs, says Dr. King. However, talk to your provider to see if there are any requests or approval procedures you could follow.
To get these lenses, start by finding an ortho-k lens specialist who can evaluate your eyes and find the right lenses for you. It takes a few visits in a few weeks to get the right lenses. Then you replace them at different frequencies depending on the program and the brand of lenses used by your specialist.
“At night, you put a stiff contact lens in the eye to flatten the cornea. When you wake up, you take out the contacts and you have clear vision,” says Dr. King. It is not permanent and may take a few weeks to fully implement and provide clear vision without glasses during the day. Most of the time, people can enjoy one to two days of corrected vision after wearing them at night. It looks a lot like Invisalign braces this way: You have to wear them every night to see results. If you stop, your vision damage will return.
One more thing to note: These lenses can be uncomfortable as you get used to them. They are more stable than regular contact lenses and may be slightly rigid. However, Dr. King says that people can often get used to them and feel that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
There is an increased risk of infection
The risk of bacterial infections increases slightly with this form of eye therapy. This may be due to persistent eye irritation, improper lens fitting or bacteria introduced during lens insertion. The main way to avoid this, Dr. King adds, is to stay in touch with your provider and let them know of any redness, irritation, pain or discoloration at any point during your treatment. In addition, the risk of bacterial infection resulting from the use of contacts can be mitigated by using clean hands (including clean beds on the nails) when applying the lenses and following all lens hygiene instructions and your doctor.
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