What is orthokeratology? And will it help slow the deterioration of my child's eyesight?

4 min read
fairly easy
Orthokeratology involves wearing a specially designed rigid contact lens overnight. There's good evidence it can help slow the progression of myopia. But like all treatments, there are risks, too.
If you or your child is short-sighted (struggles to see things further away) you might have heard about orthokeratology.

Also known as OK or ortho-k, orthokeratology has been around since the 1960s. However, it has gained interest recently for its ability to slow the progression of myopia (short-sightedness).

Orthokeratology involves wearing a specially-designed rigid contact lens overnight. Like a mold, the lens temporarily reshapes the eye while you sleep by gently changing the profile of the cornea (the eye's clear, protective outer layer that acts like a powerful lens).

This creates a temporary change; when you wake up, you take the lens off and voilà! You can see.

It takes about a week of going through the cycle for the full effect to be reached but after that – assuming you wear them every night and take them off every morning – you should be able to get through your days without glasses or contact lenses.

And most importantly, there's good evidence it can help slow the progression of myopia.

Like all treatments, however, orthokeratology has its pros and cons – and its risks need to be well understood before use.

Read more: Hidden in plain sight: How the COVID-19 pandemic is damaging children's vision


The pros

Orthokeratology may be an appealing option:

for people who want an alternative to glasses but find contact lenses either uncomfortable or not suitable (because, for example, they suffer from dry eye, work in dusty environments or enjoy water sports)

as an alternative to refractive surgery, also known as laser eye surgery or LASIK. Refractive surgery is permanent but orthokeratology is temporary; if you stop using the lenses, things go back to normal within a week

for parents of a child who might otherwise be wearing contact lenses at school; ortho-k allows a child to go to school without glasses or contact lenses, which can be lost or come…
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