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Ortho-K Lenses: Everything You Need to Know

A close-up of a female hand inserting an orthokeratology lens in a container. Orthokeratology Lenses are specialized contact lenses to reshape the cornea, the clear front part of the eye.

If you’re looking into nearsighted treatments, you might’ve encountered something called ortho-k and seen it described as “orthodontics for your eyes.” But what does that mean?

Ortho-k, also known as orthokeratology, is a non-surgical treatment that uses specialized contact lenses to reshape the cornea, the clear front part of the eye. These lenses can work great for people who don’t want to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses during the day. These lenses are typically worn overnight and removed in the morning, allowing people to see clearly as they go about their daily activities.

Ortho-k can be especially beneficial for individuals who are not candidates for laser eye surgery.

A diagram of how orthokeratology works from before wearing it, during leans wear, and after lens wear.

How Do Ortho-K Lenses Work?

Nearsightedness occurs when the cornea is of an irregular shape or the eyeball has grown too long from front to back, and light focuses in front of the retina rather than on it. When this happens, closer objects will remain clear while far away objects become blurry. While ortho-k can correct several refractive errors, it’s often used to correct myopia.

Ortho-k lenses are custom fitted to your prescription and worn while you sleep. During this time, they gently reshape your cornea, flattening the center and changing how light enters the eye. This reshaping only lasts throughout 1 day, sometimes 2, but while it lasts, you can enjoy the same clear vision you would while wearing corrective lenses. No lasers required!

Some studies have shown its ability to assist in myopia control

How Long Does it Take for Ortho-K Lenses to Work?

While some people see the effects of ortho-k immediately, others may require 2 weeks or more for their eyes to adjust. This adjustment time can depend on the severity of your prescription, as different levels of ortho-k lenses are used to slowly work your eyes up to the desired level of clarity. 3 pairs of lenses may be required to ease your eyes into shape. The last set will be the ones you’ll wear every night to maintain the correction.

For the best result, ensure you wear your lenses every night.

Who Are the Best Candidates for Ortho-K Lenses?

One of the main benefits of ortho-k is it allows individuals to achieve clear vision without needing glasses or daytime contact lenses. This benefit can be especially appealing for people who lead active lifestyles, as glasses can be inconvenient or even dangerous in certain situations such as sports or water activities. In addition, ortho-k can be a good option for people who have difficulty wearing traditional contact lenses due to allergies or dry eye.

Are Ortho-K Lenses Safe?

Ortho-k is relatively safe and causes few side effects. Some people may experience temporary discomfort or dryness when first wearing the lenses, but these symptoms typically resolve within a few days as the wearer becomes accustomed to the lenses.

Much like traditional contact lenses, wearers must clean their ortho-k lenses daily to avoid eye infections from lingering bacteria.

How Effective Are Ortho-K Lenses?

In the clinical studies for FDA-approved ortho-k lenses, 93–95% of wearers achieved at least 20/40 vision (the legal minimum for driving in the United States). In addition, 67–73% achieved 20/20 vision or better with proper use.

Is the Effect of Ortho-K Reversible?

Another advantage of ortho-k is that it is a reversible treatment. If the wearer decides to stop using the lenses, their vision will return to its original state within a few weeks. This reversible nature makes ortho-k a good choice for people who may be unsure about committing to a more permanent vision correction method, such as laser eye surgery.

Are There Downsides to Ortho-K?

Despite its many benefits, ortho-k is not suitable for everyone. For example, it’s generally not recommended for people with severe vision impairments, as it may not provide sufficient correction. It is also not recommended for people with certain medical conditions, such as severe dry eye.

In addition, ortho-k requires a certain level of commitment and discipline from the wearer. You must wear the lenses consistently every night in order to maintain the desired level of vision correction.

Is Ortho-K Right for Me?

Overall, ortho-k is a safe and effective treatment for vision correction that can provide many benefits for the right person. However, the only way to know if they can work for you is by speaking with your optometrist.

Eyes on Plainville can assess your specific needs and help you make an informed decision about how to correct your vision. Book an appointment with our team for more information about ortho-k, or to explore how this treatment can benefit you.

Dr. Sabrina Gaan

Written by Dr. Sabrina Gaan

Dr. Sabrina Gaan is the owner of Eyes on Plainville in Plainville, Massachusetts. She has a particular interest in myopia control and dry eye.

She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biology from San Jose State University while earning her license as a dispensing optician. She decided to move to MA after her VA rotation in Jamaica Plain.

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