What Are Ortho-K Overnight Contact Lenses?
How Ortho-k Lenses Work
If you wear contact lenses or glasses, how would you like to go to sleep at night and wake up the next day with 20/20 vision? This is possible with ortho-k contact lenses.
Ortho-k lenses work by putting gentle pressure on your cornea while you sleep. The cornea is the clear dome-shaped front surface of your eye. It focuses the light that enters your eye so you can see clearly. If the cornea is misshapen, it can cause vision problems such as myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism.
The good news is that the cornea is flexible and can hold a new shape for a short period of time without surgery. That’s how ortho-K (also called orthokeratology) and other types of corneal refractive therapy work.
Your eye doctor fits you with specially designed gas permeable contact lenses that you wear overnight. As you sleep, the ortho-k lenses apply gentle pressure to reshape your corneas. When you wake up and take the contacts out, you can see clearly and don’t have to wear contacts or glasses.
The effect lasts one or two days, so it’s recommended that you wear the ortho-k lenses every night.
Do Ortho-k Contacts Hurt?
You may think that wearing something in your eye that puts pressure on your cornea would hurt, but ortho-k overnight contact lenses are painless. Although, it may take a few nights to get used to them.
The lenses don’t touch your cornea. Instead, they form a vault of fluid over the eye so some parts of the cornea take in more fluid and some parts take in less. This movement of fluid temporarily pushes the cornea back into a round shape to restore your vision.
Who Can Use Ortho-k Contact Lenses?
Ortho-k contacts can be ideal for:
- Individuals with myopia (nearsightedness) – When things far away are blurry
- Individuals with hyperopia (farsightedness) – When it’s hard to see clearly close up
- Individuals with astigmatism – When things are blurry at all distances
- Individuals with presbyopia – When things up close are blurry due to age-related eye changes
- Athletes – When people don’t want to worry about contact lenses or glasses while playing sports
- Children – When kids need vision correction and don’t want to wear glasses or standard contact lenses
Benefits of Ortho-k Lenses
Orthokeratology lenses can benefit you for many reasons, including:
- They work quickly – Some people can stop wearing their glasses or contacts during the day after one night wearing ortho-k.
- They provide clear vision all day long – The goal of overnight contacts is to give you 20/20 vision all day. In some cases, the effects can last up to two days.
- They help slow the development of myopia – Research finds that about 50% of the world’s population will have myopia by 2050. Myopia is also increasing among children. Kids with moderate to high myopia are at risk of developing serious eye conditions as adults.
- They are comfortable – Overnight contact lenses are custom made to correct your specific vision problem and to be comfortable for you to wear every night.
- They are safe – Ortho-k contacts are a safe, non-surgical option for people who don’t want to wear contact lenses or glasses. They won’t damage your eyes like standard contacts could if worn overnight.
If you’re unsatisfied with your ortho-k lenses, you can stop using them and go back to wearing your glasses or standard contact lenses.
- They may not be covered by insurance – Normally, ortho-k is not covered fully by vision insurance although some plans may cover part of the cost.
- They are more expensive than traditional contact lenses – Your eye doctor needs more time and expertise to fit your overnight contact lenses, and you may need to try several pairs to get the right one. Thus, these lenses generally cost $1,000 to $2,000 for one pair and can cost as much as $4,000 per pair for difficult cases. You can also expect to pay $300 to $500 per year for things such as lens care solutions, follow-up exams and replacement lenses.
- They can take longer than expected to see results – Some people’s vision will improve after one or two days wearing ortho-k lenses. For others it can take several weeks. While you’re adjusting to your new lenses, you may see glare and halos around lights, and your vision won’t be as clear as it was when you wore your glasses or contacts. You may need a temporary pair of eyeglasses for certain tasks until your vision is fully corrected by the ortho-k lenses.
LASIK and Ortho-K
You may be familiar with LASIK, which is also a type of corneal refractive treatment. LASIK is laser surgery that permanently corrects, in most cases, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia.
If you want a more permanent solution to your vision problem, you can get LASIK after using ortho-k lenses. You’ll have to stop wearing your ortho-k contacts and wait as long as several months to allow your corneas to go back to their previous shape.
Make an appointment with your eye doctor to learn more about ortho-k lenses and find out if you could get 20/20 vision while you sleep.