Orthokeratology, or “ortho-k,” is the process of reshaping the eye with specially-designed rigid gas permeable (GP) contact lenses. The goal of ortho-k is to flatten the front surface of the eye and thereby correct mild to moderate amounts of nearsightedness and astigmatism.
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 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.
How come I have never heard of this?
Ortho K technology has been around over 40 years. However, it is only within the past 10 years where the technology has caught up to really develop customized lenses to fit a broader patient base. In addition, it is with the development of newer materials and the additional studies of myopia control in children that has really started to make Ortho K a growing method of vision correction! With the main risk factors similar to those of wearing soft contact lenses, ortho-K is one of the safest ways to be free of glasses.
Who is a candidate for ortho-k?
Ortho k is a great option for anyone who has a low to moderate amount of nearsightedness and wants to be free of glasses or contact lenses. The final determination will be made by Dr. Trinh who will determine if your prescription falls within the therapeutic ranges.
Recent multi center research over the past 10 years has demonstrated a significant decrease in progression of nearsightedness in children who were treated with OrthoKeratology lenses. Multiple research studies have demonstrated an average decrease in progression of myopia in children between 40-50%. Until recently, doctors have only been able to tell parent's that the only method of treating myopia was with glasses and that progression was ultimately going to happen. Based on these new research developments we no longer have to wait and see what will happen with the progression of myopia, but rather can take action to decrease the likelihood of progression. This is especially important in patients who have family history of very high myopia, which can increase risk for complications such as retinal detachments and retinal thinning. UC Berkeley School of Optometry has recently established a myopia control clinic in 2014 which uses a combination of Ortho-keratology lenses, specialty lenses and drops that have demonstrated slowing of progression of myopia.
Athletes: Ortho K is great for athletes who compete in sports where contact lenses can get in the way such as swimmers, golfers, marathon runners, cyclists, surfers and tri-athletes. Since the correction lasts 24-48 hours for intensive sports that can require extended hours of comfort with conventional contact lenses, Ortho K lenses provide a much more natural vision for greater performance.
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 office 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.
How much does Ortho K cost?
OrthoKeratology is about half the cost of LASIK surgery. The therapeutic procedure ranges from $1800 to $2500 depending on the complexity of the case and the prescription. Lower prescriptions will often be correctable with one mold, where as higher prescriptions will require several molds.
Can I have LASIK after ortho-k?
Yes, it’s possible to have LASIK surgery after orthokeratology. However, since 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.