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Ortho-K: The Gift of Sight

In this season of giving, what if you were able to give the gift of clear sight, especially to someone who is eyeglass dependent or a child that is becoming more and more nearsighted each year? Yes, you can prevent your eyes from getting weaker. The procedure is FDA approved and is called Orthokeratology (ortho-k). No, it has nothing to do with laser surgery or cutting the eye.

If you worry about your eyeglasses becoming thicker every year, then ortho-k may be for you. It is approved for both children and adults. Ortho-K is a great option for kids or for anyone who worries about becoming nearsighted.

Nearsightedness is the most common eye problem and it occurs in about 1 out or 4 in the US. In China, it occurs in about 9 out of 10. As people spend more time on i-phones and video games, myopia starts at a younger age. Most people choose glasses or contact lenses to correct their vision, but glasses and contact lenses can get in the way of activities.

Ortho-K is a non-surgical process which achieves temporary reduction of myopia by gently reshaping the cornea using specially designed contact lenses during sleep. The method reshapes the cornea and enables light to focus on the back of the eye (retina).

The results of ortho-k are similar to those of LASIK surgery, but the benefit is that it is reversible. Ortho-k is like braces for the eyes. After the teeth are straightened with braces, a retainer is worn at night. In ortho-k, special contact lenses are worn overnight, and after removal of lenses in the morning, you are able to see for the whole day! The improvement in vision occurs even after the very first night of wearing these lenses. The lenses are inserted just before sleep but have power to enable you to see when you get up or look at your alarm clock. Ortho-k lenses are worn on a regular basis though some may only need to wear them on alternate nights.

The concept of Ortho-k began in the 1960’s in the USA. Several university studies as early as the the 1980’s revealed the safety and effectiveness of ortho-k treatment. New technology allowed the researchers to design special contact lenses so that the process has become highly predictable and successful. The safety and effectiveness of ortho-k gained approval by FDA in 2002.

Ortho-k is ideal for athletes who have concerns about glasses or contact lenses being knocked off during games, and the risk of eye injuries. It also allows more unrestricted peripheral vision which is crucial for games like basketball and baseball. Regular contact lenses are preferred by many, but have the drawbacks of drying out especially during intense concentration when playing sports. There is also more eye allergy or discomfort to contact lens when there is pollen, pollution, dust or sand in the air. Ortho-k on the other hand is worn during the night which avoids all these problems, and poses no more risk of eye infections than soft lenses.

There is no age restriction for ortho-k. Patient as young as 6 or 7 years old wear ortho-k under the supervision of their parents. It offers the benefit of controlling the progression of myopia.

Ortho-k has the advantage of avoiding the risk and pain of Lasik. The risks of complications involved with Lasik include dry eye syndrome, glare, double vision and halo. In some cases, loss of vision may occur. In any case, those under 18 years old (or have fluctuating vision) are not candidates for Lasik.

Ortho-k is safe, reversible, has considerably less risk, and can benefit people of all ages, even those that need bifocals. Giving the gift of sight may be the most long-lasting and appreciated gift you have ever given.

Dr. Roth. OD, FCOVD, is a developmental optometrist, and is Board Certified in Vision Development and Vision Therapy. As part of his full scope practice, Family Eye Care, he sees patients of all ages. He diagnoses and treats eye disease and vision problems. Dr. Roth, Lic# 4635 OM# 27OM0005600, practices at Family Eye Care, in Old Bridge and may be reached at 1-732-679-2020. Please visit www.NJBeyond2020.com or www.NewJerseyEyeSite.com.