Nearsightedness is estimated to affect around 40% of adults in the United States, and this number is expected to grow over the coming decade. The vast majority of these people use prescription lenses to correct their vision so that they can see clearly, but another, newer option has emerged that doesn’t only create a clear vision, but that also helps to manage their nearsightedness so that it doesn’t get progressively worse. This treatment is called orthokeratology, or ortho-k for short.
Nearsightedness, a condition known as myopia, is a refractive eye condition. What this means is that it occurs due to a problem with the way that light is refracted when it enters the eye. Rather than being refracted in such a way that it is focused properly onto the retina, it falls short and is focused in front of it. This causes the image that is sent to our brain to be interpreted as blurred.
People who have myopia are able to see objects close to their face clearly, but those that are at intermediate or far distances get progressively more blurred. It’s normally caused by the eyeball growing too long, causing an abnormal curvature of the front part of the eye called the cornea, which is responsible for refracting the light that enters our eye. Nearsightedness is progressive, and high levels of myopia have been shown to increase a patient’s risk of developing other, serious eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration. Managing nearsightedness can help to prevent these conditions.
Orthokeratology, or ortho-k, is a new, non-invasive treatment to slow or halt the progression of myopia. The technique uses custom-designed, bespoke contact lenses that are worn overnight. While you sleep, the contact lenses will apply gentle pressure onto the eyes in order to reshape the cornea in such a way that, should you be awake and your eyes open, the light would be refracted correctly, and you would be able to see clearly. While contact lenses can’t usually be worn overnight, ortho-k lenses are specially designed from gas permeable materials so that they are safe to do so. And since your cornea can retain its shape for some hours after removing the contact lenses, it’s possible for you to continue to see clearly even after taking them out, without needing to wear glasses or contact lenses.
The effects of ortho-k are progressive too, meaning that the more consistently you wear your orthokeratology lenses, the better they will be at managing your myopia and preventing it from worsening. Your clear vision will extend for longer too, and many patients find that consistent use of their ortho-k lenses allows them to maintain their clear vision without glasses or contact lenses for an entire day or more.
One of the biggest benefits of ortho-k is that it isn’t only for adults. Nearsightedness usually starts to develop in childhood, during a period of rapid growth. Experts agree that the earlier myopia can be controlled, the less likely you are to develop severe nearsightedness in the future. Childhood myopia levels are on the rise too – something believed to be caused largely by prolonged uses of digital devices and more time spent indoors – and ortho-k can help to keep myopia levels down and prevent future problems with your child’s vision.
If you would like to find out more about managing nearsightedness with ortho-k, don’t hesitate to speak to our friendly and knowledgeable eye care team at (781) 501-9120.