We are very excited to provide orthokeratology, or ortho-k, as one of our specialty contact lens services. Thanks to advances in research and technology, many individuals are now able to see clearly throughout the day without wearing glasses or contact lenses. Ortho-k involves the wearing of rigid molds, similar to gas permeable contact lenses, while sleeping, to gently modify the very front surface of the eye. It is most appropriate for nearsighted (myopic) individuals with up to moderate amounts of astigmatism. However, it can also be effective for those who are mildly to moderately farsighted.
People of any age can benefit from ortho-k. Our real excitement about it, though, stems from its ability to significantly slow down the progression of myopia in children. Myopia usually tapers on its own by the later teens, but the more it can be checked during its period of most rapid development, the lower the final level will be. And, the lower the final level, the less inconvenience to deal with when not wearing correction, and more importantly, the lower the likelihood of a variety of eye diseases in later life. Myopia occurs when the eye grows and stretches. This leads to the nerve tissue at the back of the eye becoming thinner and more fragile which is what increases the risks.
Myopia is becoming more common world-wide. It’s estimated that ½ of the world’s population will be nearsighted by 2050. In some Asian countries, well over 80% of teens are nearsighted. In the U.S., myopia among those in their teens thru 50 increased significantly between the 1970s and 2010. While genetics plays some role, the environment has a big impact, too. Please check out our separate section on Ortho-K FAQs for more info. Or, just give us a call. We love to talk about this stuff!!
Ortho-k has been around for close to 50 years, but it’s begun to attract more serious attention over the past 10 to 15. One reason is newer materials allowing people to sleep with the molds, so they can go thru the whole day with less hassle. Another is technology permitting fine-tuned assessment of eye shape, as well as monitoring of mold position and their effect on eye shape, and computer controlled fabrication of the molds.
How does Ortho-K work?
The shape of the mold exerts a compressive force centrally and a pulling force off center to change the thickness of the very front surface of the eye (a tissue layer about ½ the thickness of a piece of paper). This flattens the front curvature allowing light to focus on the back of the eye. It also changes how more peripheral light focuses, and this is what is believed to send signals to the eye to slow down its growth, and hence, myopic progression.
For adults, it does the same thing to the front of the eye, but by adulthood, the eye has already stopped growing, so the myopia control effect is not relevant. Adults who may most benefit are those who experience dryness with contact lenses or are exposed to environments where contacts are less desirable.
Again, please check out our other Ortho-K and Myopia Management pages, or just give us a call (540-605-9537) if you’d like more info!