Orthokeratology or Ortho-K is just like orthodontics for your eyes. It helps to re-shape your cornea and thus improve your vision. It is exactly to eyes what braces are to teeth. This helps people to avoid wearing glasses or lenses for better vision. The specially crafted lenses are worn while sleeping at night which helps in modifying your eye sight. This method is reversible as there is no involvement of surgery or laser treatment but through maintaining the practice of ortho-k, your eyesight can be improved gradually.
Ortho-K use gas permeable lenses to shape your front surface of your lenses overnight. The treatment is valid for myopia or near sightedness. This is quite popular among children as their eye sight tends to improve during their 20s with regular ortho-k treatment. Thus, orthokeratology is used for two primary purposes:
A. To treat refractive errors like myopia, astigmatism and also hyperopia. Presbyopia can also be sometimes treated through the method stated.
B. Ortho-K is majorly used, as stated above, to slow the progression of myopia among children.
FDA particularly approves few of the Ortho-K lenses for overnight use. This is because the lenses should be breathable and allow your eyes to work as it would without the lenses.
How Does Orthokeratology Work?
The cornea of your eye is the window to the light reflected onto the retina and is responsible for all the focussing ability of your eyes. It is a clear shaped dome and the tissue is very flexible. An ophthalmologist will use an instrument to measure the shape and dimensions of your cornea and customise the lenses for your eyes accordingly. A machine known as corneal topography is used to measure the shape and curves of your eyes which present a perfect picture to your ophthalmologist who can then go ahead and work on the lenses for you. The lenses as stated above are to be worn during the night which tries to flatten the cornea of your eyes. By flattening the cornea, the light entering your eyes is bent and thus you can see more clearly. The lenses customised for you are supposed to be rigid and gas based but at the same time they should allow oxygen to pass through them for your eyes to remain healthy.
Once you remove the lenses the next day, your cornea remains flattened for a while and thus you can see clearly without using lenses. But if you stop wearing your orthokeratology lenses all together, your cornea will get back to its normal shape and refractive error will occur again. Thus, to maintain the flatness of your cornea, make sure that you wear it regularly.
Is Ortho-K safe?
The risk of getting an eye infection increases to a large extent. This is especially among the adolescents and young children who cannot maintain proper hygiene and care while using the lenses. They fail to maintain cleanliness and using lenses with dirty hands or equipment may result in eye infections. Every year, nearly a million people visit an eye doctor to register an eye infection which majorly occurs due to lenses. This is a very dangerous condition as sometimes a person might end up losing his eyesight. The orthokeratology lenses are more dangerous due to its increased chances of contacting infections and hence wearing glasses might seem as a better option.
There is no maximum limit to which you can continue wearing your lenses. It should be worn as long as you think you are comfortable.
Thus, this new technique of treating short-sightedness may seem as a very innovative method but it has its own pros and cons. One should be well aware of its implications before taking any decision regarding the same.