Myopia, nearsightedness, that gets worse each year, is a common childhood eye condition that has serious consequences beyond just getting a new pair of eyeglasses each year. Eyeglasses and traditional contact lenses compensate for a child that is nearsighted. Most people realize that eyeglasses don’t SOLVE the problem, and the prescription usually gets worse each year.
Orthokeratology, sometimes known as Ortho-k, are special lenses that are worn at night. Ortho-k molding lenses have several advantages. They provide clear and stable vision without having to wear any glasses or contacts throughout the day, and in addition, they slow the progression of myopia. This is important because rapid myopia progression can lead to sight-threatening eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration later in life.
What Exactly is Myopia?
Myopia is the technical term for someone who is Nearsighted. Nearsighted means that someone can see better at near than they can at distance. Myopia occurs when distant objects look blurry because the light focuses in front of the retina, so by the time it reaches the retina, it is out of focus.
Myopia affects more than a quarter of the world’s population, a situation many experts consider an epidemic. By 2050, that number is expected to dramatically rise to 50% of the global population.
What causes myopia?
- Genetics: if one or both parents are nearsighted
- visual function: how we use our visual system, changes our visual system. We all spend a lot of our time looking at things up close. Think about how much time you spend on your cell phone, tablet, and computer. For children, in addition, it means reading textbooks. Our visual system is not designed for the amount of time we spend at near, and since we are spending more time at near, this explains the rapid rise in the number of people that have myopia.
How Is Myopia Dangerous?
Low to Mild myopia (-0.25 to -3.00 D) generally does not increase a person's risk for eye diseases later in life.
Moderate myopia, those whose prescription in between -3.25 and -5.00 D, and High myopia those that have a prescription that is more than -5.00 D, are at a higher risk for serious, vision-threatening conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment and myopic macular degeneration.
Cataracts means that the lens of the eye has become cloudy, and this makes it more difficult to see.
Glaucoma is the gradual death of the optic nerve. That carries information from the eye to the brain. The pressure in the eye is usually higher than the nerve can sustain. We usually have to treat this with eye drop medication throughout life or with eye surgery. It is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and Canada.
The retina becomes detached from the layers below it. This causes loss to the visual field, flashes of light, floaters, and in the worst of cases — total vision loss.
Myopic Macular Degeneration
This is likely the least understood problem. When myopia is extremely high, the retina then stretches and leads to changes at the macula, the part of the retina we use to see fine objects, for example, reading. This can lead to distortion of vision, bleeding in the deeper parts of the macula, and macular degeneration. Maculopathy means irreversible vision loss and even blindness.
How Does Ortho-K Work?
Orthokeratology is like braces for the eyes. After someone has had orthodonture to straighten the teeth, and the braces are removed, they wear a retainer at night while they sleep.
Ortho-k lenses are worn while sleeping and they gently reshape the cornea. Ortho-k is FDA approved for both Children and Adults, so you know it is proven to be safe. The advantages are that an adult or child can see clearly all day long.
For an adult, that means being able to drive a car without having to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses. It means being able to swim and play sports without requiring prescription goggles or sports glasses.
For a child, it means that we can prevent them from becoming more and more nearsighted every year. Children can then see the board clearly in school. Ortho-k stops the progression of myopia in most people AND it has the advantage of being able to see clearly all day long. It reduces the likelihood of developing these sight-threatening problems as they become older.
How Are Ortho-k Lenses Prescribed?
Step 1 is a comprehensive eye examination to determine eye health and starting prescription
Step 2 is an Ortho-k Evaluation. Special instruments are used and measurements are taken. A topographer measures the exact shape of your cornea. We then design a lens that is custom-made for you, and that enables us to obtain better results. This exacting process also reduces the number of visits needed. It makes it easier for patients that travel to our office from a distance.
When the lenses arrive, we will teach you how to insert, remove, and care for their ortho-k contact lenses. We will see you periodically in our office to make sure that you are making the improvements we expect and if any adjustments are needed.
Ortho-k offers the ability to see clearly and it also lowers the risk of developing ocular diseases later in life.