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Published on November 21, 2018

woman taking off glasses

Ortho-K May Allow You to Say Goodbye to Your Glasses

If you’re sick of wearing glasses and tired of the “dry eye” feeling that comes from wearing soft contact lenses all day, a relatively unknown treatment option may help. It can also serve as a form of myopia control for you or your children, and help your kids to avoid inheriting “your eyesight.”

Alternative to Laser Vision Correction

Orthokeratology – “Ortho-K” for short – uses a specialty rigid-gas permeable contact lens to mold or reshape the cornea while a patient sleeps. When the patient removes the lenses in the morning, they have improved unaided vision. It’s as if they had corrective laser surgery overnight.

“Individuals with myopia, which is the clinical term for nearsightedness, see things better that are nearby. They often require contacts or glasses to improve their distance vision,” said Avera Medical Group optometrist Paul Draayer, OD. “However, as the amount of myopia increases, so does the chance of developing more serious eye problems like cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. It is for this reason that nearsightedness is now thought of as more of a disease process, not just a vision condition.”

Draayer said recent studies have tracked an alarming increase in nearsightedness, both in numbers and degree.

“This increase is likely related to the increasing demands we place on our eyes with digital devices,” he said. “Refractive error, which would be farsighted, nearsighted and astigmatism, are developed when we’re young. Children’s eyes adapt to their stimuli, so when they spend a lot of time focusing at nearby items, their eyes grow longer to allow their natural vision to be more nearsighted. This helps them see things nearby, but makes their distance vision much more blurry. That’s one of the reasons many health care professionals promote the idea of kids spending less time on digital devices. Kids need to get outside and play to develop their vision, too.”

Parents also might consider Ortho-K, as it can help kids as young as 8. It not only serves to correct refractive error and prevent nearsightedness from worsening, but it’s reversible while laser vision correction is not. In addition to an alternative to LASIK, Ortho-K serves as a form of myopia control.

Getting Started

If you want to try orthokeratology, it begins with an assessment.

“Patients will come in and we’ll map their cornea, check their prescription, and conduct an evaluation of their corneal health,” said Draayer. “There are some qualifications and restrictions, and for some people, Ortho-K isn’t possible. But for many others it can be an amazing option.”

If a person is a good candidate, the special lenses are ordered. When they arrive, Draayer and his team will coach the patient on how to put them in and take them out. It requires a slightly different technique than the one used for soft contact lenses.

“They then will wear the lenses when they go to bed that night, and then return to our office the next morning,” Draayer said. “We will often see a significant improvement in their vision, and in other cases, we sometimes may need to apply a slight tweak in the approach.”

Long-Term Benefits of Reshaping

Since reshaping lenses last for a few years, the cost for their use is more comparable to wearing glasses or contacts. This is especially true for people who sought other forms of myopia control, such as wearing no-line bifocals or multi-focal contact lenses.

“Ortho-K is meant to serve as a preventive approach to the condition, and it has proven results,” Draayer said. “The current approach is just a reaction that requires constant updates to glasses and contacts, without making real changes that last.”

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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