Orthokeratology, commonly called ortho-k, is a method used to correct myopia (nearsightedness) or astigmatism by wearing rigid gas permeable contact lenses overnight, so that no corrective lenses are needed during daytime hours.
Oxygen gas permeable (GP) lenses specialized for ortho-k are inserted at bedtime and worn as you sleep. Throughout the night, the lenses reshape your cornea gently so that your vision becomes clear on the following morning. The correction is temporary, and ideally no eyeglasses or contact lenses will be needed on the next day or two. In order to maintain sharp visual acuity on a daily basis, you need to wear the ortho-k reshaping lenses every night.
Should You Have Ortho-k Instead of LASIK?
Ortho-k works best for people who don’t want to wear glasses or contact lenses all day, every day – but don’t mind wearing contact lenses at night, or occasionally during the day. If your primary goal is to be glasses- and contacts-free during the day, then ortho-k might be a good alternative for you. However, if you want to eliminate contacts altogether, then ortho-k is not likely to satisfy you.
Ortho-k may be a good option if you suffer from dry eyes. It’s been found that Dry Eye Disease is often worsened by LASIK.
Unlike LASIK, ortho-k is reversible. If you try reshaping lenses and later decide you want laser eye surgery instead, you can do that. But for a period of time before surgery (possibly several months), your surgeon would have you stop wearing your lenses so your corneas can revert to their natural shape.
As with all contact lenses, there are some side effects and possible complications. Ask your eye care practitioner about the challenges you can expect.
Vision Results from Orthokeratology
Success rates for ortho-k are generally higher for more mild vision prescriptions. The ideal goal is to provide 20/20 vision without any need for eyeglasses or contacts during the day.
According to FDA trials conducted on both CRT and VST lenses, more than 65% of ortho-k patients achieved 20/20 visual acuity. A whopping number of more than 90% of ortho-k patients achieved 20/40 vision or better (this is the legal requirement for driving without vision correction in most states). Consult with your eye doctor to find out if your vision prescription is within range for successful ortho-k treatment.
Note that although improvement in vision is generally reported within a day or two of wearing ortho-k overnight, the full effects may not be experienced until the lenses are worn for a few weeks. During this transition period, your vision will probably not be as crisp as it was with regular contacts or eyeglasses, and glare or halos around lights may be visible. Until ortho-k works fully, a temporary pair of eyeglasses may be required for specific actions, such as driving at night.
How Does Ortho-k Feel?
Although some people have trouble wearing regular gas permeable contact lenses during the day, ortho-k GP lenses are worn while sleeping – so discomfort and awareness of the lenses in your eyes is generally not an issue.
Is Ortho-k expensive?
Professional fitting for ortho-k requires a series of visits to your eye doctor. A number of pairs of contact lenses are also generally needed. GP lenses that are special for ortho-k are more costly than standard contacts. In sum, the fees for ortho-k add up to a higher total than regular contact lenses.
LASIK after Ortho-k
Some consider Ortho-K to be a non-surgical alternative to LASIK. Nonetheless, refractive surgeries, such as LASIK, are possible after treatment with ortho-k lenses. Yet because ortho-k works to reshape your cornea, you are required to stop wearing the lenses for approximately several months before undergoing LASIK. This allows your eyes to return to their original shape.
It’s important to inform your LASIK surgeon if you’ve been wearing ortho-k lenses, and you will be advised as to how long of a wait is necessary before having the laser procedure.