Orthokeratology is a popular form of myopia control that uses a non-surgical technique to reshape the eye. By slowly reshaping the corneal surface, orthokeratology can correct vision and prevent the progression of nearsightedness. The process uses specially designed gas permeable (GP) contact lenses that are worn overnight as the corneal reshaping occurs, then removed during the day providing clear vision without the need for additional visual correction. You can think of orthokeratology as orthodontics for the eyes – just as braces straighten teeth over time, orthokeratology GP lenses correct vision.
Orthokeratology, also called ortho-k, is most commonly used in children who have shown progressive development of nearsightedness. If your child seems to receive stronger and stronger glasses or contact lens prescriptions every year, they may be an ideal candidate. Ortho-k is helpful in these cases because it has been clinically proven to reduce the progression of nearsightedness, which can ultimately lead to healthier eyes. The effects of ortho-k work best when the amount of myopia is still mild (around -4.50 diopters or less). For kids who do not want to rely on glasses or contact lenses throughout the day, orthokeratology can give them the freedom from corrective lenses that they desire. It is a great option for children who are athletes, as it provides clear vision for sports activities without the hassle of sports goggles.
Factors such as high amounts of astigmatism or amounts of myopia above the treatment limits can mean your child is not a candidate for ortho-k. Those with dry eye syndrome or loose eyelids may experience comfort problems with the treatment lens, and therefore may be poor candidates as well.
To begin treatment with orthokeratology lenses, your eye doctor will take measurements of the front surface of the eye, and design a contact lens specifically with these measurements in mind. This lens will then be worn overnight so corneal reshaping can occur. During the first week or two of treatment, the vision will not be perfectly clear during the day without any other corrective lenses, so temporary disposable contact lenses may need to be worn. Within two weeks, the overnight refractive changes begin to stabilize and the treatment becomes highly effect. At this point, there is little to no “regression” of refractive error during the day, and vision is clear as soon as the ortho-k lenses are removed.
The original treatment period of orthokeratology lenses may take multiple office visits and requires some patience. But once this initial treatment period is over, ortho-k offers a low maintenance option for visual correction. The lenses are simply worn nightly, or in some cases every other night, and removed in the morning for clear vision. In most cases, the treatment lenses only need to be replaced annually. As with any contact lenses, there is a slight risk of infection with nightly wear of GP lenses, though these risks are less than with extended wear of soft contact lenses.