Many patients with vision problems heartily embrace the idea of enjoying vision correction without having to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses. Not all of these patients, however, are good candidates for PRK or Lasik surgery, the two standard surgeries used to alter the way the cornea of the eye refracts light. If that describes you, don’t fret — because here at Blink Eye Care, we offer an advanced corneal reshaping technique known as orthokeratology, or Ortho-K. This non-surgical technique can produce changes to the way your cornea refracts light.
To understand the benefits of Ortho-K, let us first consider how the cornea works. The cornea is a transparent, spherical bulge that sits over the lens of your eye. In addition to protecting the inner parts of the eye, the cornea also performs some lens-like tasks of its own. The shape of cornea causes incoming light rays to be refracted, or bent, in such a way that the lens can focus them into a clear, sharp image before they pass on to the retina and optic nerve. Ultimately, the optic nerve transmits the image to your brain.
Deformations in the shape of the cornea cause refraction to go wrong in various ways, producing the fuzzy images characteristic of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Glasses and contact lens are curved to “pre-refract” incoming light to compensate for your personal degree of corneal deformation. Laser surgery actually corrects the shape of cornea itself, eliminating most of all of the visual errors that might otherwise call for corrective lenses.
While you might leap at the thought of permanently correcting vision problems, laser surgery isn’t always the best eye care option. For instance, if you suffer from thin corneas, untreated cataracts, diabetes, certain autoimmune diseases, or a corneal disease called keratoconus, you should avoid laser eye surgery.
Some of our patients simply don’t like the idea of any kind of surgery, or they want a reversible procedure. Orthokeratology may be an ideal choice for these individuals. Dr. Henderson will map the shape of your corneas precisely and then fabricate special contact lenses. Unlike standard contacts, you’ll wear these lenses at night. The lenses perform a subtle corneal reshaping as you sleep, meaning that you can take them out the next morning and enjoy perfect or near-perfect vision.
Ortho-K can help you see clearly for one or two days at a time, or possibly even longer. By wearing them regularly at night, you can maintain your clarity of vision for as long as you decide to continue using them. If you decide to use another form of vision correction, simply stop wearing the Ortho-K lenses and your corneas will assume their previous shape once again. Talk to our knowledgeable staff to see whether Ortho-K makes sense for you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.