What Is Ortho-K Treatment?
Ortho-k (also called Orthokeratology) is a nonsurgical and reversible vision correction procedure approved for adults and children (six years and up). The Ortho-k contact lens is worn at night while you sleep. When you awake in the morning, you remove the lenses, and your vision remains clear throughout the entire day. Orthokeratology is approved for adults and children (six years old and up).
In this article, I will discuss probable causes and cures for myopia progression in children. I will also give you a few tips on how to prevent your child’s myopia from getting worse. To find an optometrist near you who specializes in the sleepSEE Ortho-k system, visit our online doctor-search map.
The contact lens used in sleepSEE’s Myopia Control System is made of a rigid gas-permeable material — it is not completely soft, nor is it completely hard. It has a flexible property that rebounds to its original shape. Because of this, Ortho-k lenses are more easily handled (i.e., easier to put on and take off the eyes) and are more comfortable than your typical “hard” contact lenses. But the greatest benefit of all is the clinically proven ability of the Ortho-k lens to slow down the rate of nearsighted (myopia) progression in children.
The goal of sleepSEE Ortho-k is threefold:
- Provide freedom from having to wear glasses or contact lenses throughout the day.
- Allow people with active lifestyles (sports, adverse working conditions, outdoor activities, etc.) to perform activities without reducing visual comfort and performance.
- Slow down the rate of myopia progression in children without the use of pharmaceutical agents.
You can achieve all these benefits without the risks often associated with pharmaceutical agents and surgeries (i.e., LASIK, PRK).
Ortho-k For Adults
So, what kind of freedom does Ortho-k actually provide? Besides not having to wear prescription eyeglasses throughout the day and controlling myopia progression in children, what if I told you Ortho-k provides you the freedom to choose how you look?
If you are like most people, given the choice to wear or not wear eyeglasses/contact lenses during the day, you would choose the latter. Sure, eyeglasses and colored contact lenses can add different styles or flavors to your appearance, but you can still make a fashion statement without being forced to wear prescription eyeglasses or prescription contact lenses full time.
For example, some adult Ortho-k users like the option of having nonprescription eyeglasses in multiple colors and multiple styles to match their wardrobe or makeup. Having the option of wearing nonprescription colored contact lenses to match your wardrobe opens the door for unlimited fashion options. Imagine spending three hundred dollars or more on one pair of prescription eyeglasses, when you could purchase 5 to 6 pairs of multicolored and multistyled nonprescription eyeglasses at a considerable savings.
Active Lifestyle — Sports, Gardening, Work
If you enjoy the outdoors or have an active lifestyle, there is no greater choice than sleepSEE Ortho-k. Whether you play sports, do gardening, ride motorcycles or work in dusty environments, sleepSEE’s nonsurgical vision correction system gives you total vision freedom.
Take swimming, for example. It is well-known, I hope, that you should not swim with contact lenses. Why? Because the water will wash the lenses off your eyes. (And good luck trying to find a lost contact lens in a swimming pool.) In addition, bacteria/viruses from the water can get underneath the contact lenses and cause harm to your eyes. (I know some of you are thinking pool chlorine kills all viruses and bacteria. Actually, it does not.)
Here is another example. Imagine a gardener who enjoys the beautiful blooms of spring. Unfortunately, along with the spring blooms come the spring dooms: allergies. During this time of the year, pollen and other allergens can wreak havoc on your eyes. And it is even worse if you are a contact lens wearer with dry eyes.
(As a side note, the nature of contact lenses will make the eyes drier than they would normally be if not wearing contact lenses. They are like little sponges that pull moisture from your eyes. So, if your eyes are already dry, or borderline dry, wearing contact lenses can potentially make them even dryer. Now add allergies, pollen and foreign debris to the mix, and what you are left with are watery, reddish and itchy eyes.)
sleepSEE Ortho-k and Myopia Control
Of all the benefits one can gain from wearing sleepSEE Ortho-k lenses, there is none greater than controlling myopia progression in children. Myopia (or nearsightedness) is a condition where a person’s distant vision becomes blurrier over time. If you become extremely nearsighted, even your functional near vision can become blurry.
Fifty years ago, myopia was not a great concern. Back then, the rate of change in myopia was considered to be normal. But something happened in the early ‘80s. Optometrists started noticing the regular appearance of more and more myopia, especially among the younger population. They also noticed in this same population the rate at which myopia was increasing year to year — and found it alarming!
What Causes Myopia
In a previous article, I wrote about the different causes of myopia development. Initially, myopia was thought to be caused only by genetics. Today, there are several debatable causes. But what is not debatable is the undeniable role computers have played in the progression of childhood myopia. There is no doubt that long term (and incorrect) use of electronics devices (iPhone, book tablets, computers) correlates strongly with the increase in childhood myopia in modern day America — and the world!
Another causation that is hard to debate is the decreased amount of time children are spending outdoors during daylight hours. Whether at school or at home, the younger population is spending most of its waking hours indoors, doing close-up activities (e.g., computers, smartphones, etc.).
In a previous article, I briefly talked about nutrition and how it relates to myopia development. I feel it is so critical that it is worth mentioning again.
It is no secret that our children are consuming high amounts of sugary, processed foods at unprecedented levels. Your author feels it does not take a Ph.D. in Nutritional Science to know something is not right with this picture. Health care providers are already seeing the repercussions of this trend: Diabetes is appearing at a much younger age than historical norms. It is not too far a fetch to say poor nutrition is playing a significant role in the myopia epidemic.
Genetics, environment, computers and malnutrition are all contributing factors in myopia development and its progression. You cannot change genetics, but you can modify the other three: environment, computers and malnutrition. And by combining these modifications with Orthokeratology and Visual Therapy, you can significantly decrease your child’s myopia progression.
Is Myopia Bad?
No, not when you consider the development of myopia is actually a protective mechanism. Myopia occurs to reduce the amount of stress in the visual system. Humans are genetically programmed to adapt to stressful environments/situations. In low-stress environments, the eyes will adapt by developing low amounts of myopia. This is considered normal and can be observed if you look at the rate of myopia over the past 70 years.
Yes, when the visual system is constantly introduced to high levels of stress (e.g., hours of constant reading without taking appropriate breaks). As long as elevated levels of stress are present, the body (visual system) will continue to respond (adapt) to relieve this stress. This adaptation gives birth to progressive childhood myopia.
Will Glasses Make My Eyes Worse?
Since we are on the topic of visual stress, this is probably a good time to address a question I am often asked: If my child wears glasses, will it make his eyes worse?
If someone asked me this question years ago — during my first years of practice — I probably would have answered no. But time, experience and a few Behavioral Optometrists taught me how the visual process actually works.
I learned that the body, as well as vision itself, responds behaviorally to external stressors. Wearing a higher-than-needed prescription to meet a particular task (e.g., reading) can potentially add stress to the visual system. And the visual system will respond in a manner to reduce, or eliminate, this stress. Thus, in most cases, it is a behavioral response to a stressor that manifests the anatomical changes we often see in highly myopic eyes.
So, if you were to ask me this question today, I would say, “Yes, wearing the wrong prescription could potentially make your eyes worse.”
Retinal Detachments, Cataracts, Glaucoma
If childhood nearsightedness (myopia) were our only concern, then the only thing needed would be to increase one’s prescription. But this is not the case. It is the insidious nature of myopia that, until recent times, has caused great concern worldwide. Let me use Anatomy-101 to make my case.
When myopia progression is active, the human eye becomes elongated and egg-shaped. If you could take out the human eye (do not try this at home), you could actually see the difference in a normal eye versus a highly myopic eye. The white, outer shell part of the eye (sclera) would be elongated along the horizontal axis — giving it the egg-shape appearance. This picture seems harmless enough. But what you cannot see — and where the damage is actually occurring – is inside the eye itself.
As the sclera becomes elongated, the inside part of the eye (retina) remains the same size. In the normal eye, not only are these two anatomical parts roughly the same size, but they are also attached to each other.
But during the myopia progression process (eye elongation), these two anatomical parts become detached/separated because the sclera is elongating while the retina is not. This occurrence is medically described as a retinal detachment. And it is a very serious problem, with the worst-case scenario resulting in blindness.
Cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration are other eye pathologies that are serious and secondary to high amounts of myopia.
Top Tips For Myopia Prevention
Now that you have a better understanding of myopia and some of its causes, what can you do about it? As a parent, the first thing you can do is get your child’s eyes examined by your local optometrist. It is a good idea to get this done yearly. Next, focus on modifications you can make to your child’s immediate surroundings. For example, make sure your child is reading under proper lighting conditions and using correct posture while reading/writing. (Note: I highly recommend that you purchase a slant board to assist with your child’s reading/writing posture).
Make it a priority to have your child spend more time outside during daylight hours, doing activities besides reading. And limit the amount of time your child spends on electronic reading devices: The child should take reading breaks every half-hour by looking in the distance (greater than 20 feet). Also, using the Harmon Technique will help determine if your child is holding objects too close to his eyes while reading.
Proper nutrition? This goes without saying.
You can google behavioral or developmental optometrist to find out more. These optometrists, along with most orthokeratologists, are associated with organizations (COVD.org, OEPF.org, AAOMC) that have practiced myopia prevention years before the world was ever officially introduced to the term. So, it is best to start with them.
Another valuable resource is our sleepSEE.com website. Here you can locate the nearest sleepSEE doctor who is committed to nonsurgical vision correction and myopia control. Also, near the bottom of our home page, there is a neat tool to help you determine if you or your child is a candidate for the sleepSEE Ortho-k procedure. All you need to do is input your latest eyeglass prescription in the dropdown boxes. The moving arrows will show the likelihood of your candidacy.
This article barely touches the surface. But I hope, in some way, it has enlightened you on the subject of nonsurgical vision correction, myopia control and orthokeratology. Studies show that by the year 2050, over half the world’s population (4.9 billion people) will be nearsighted. This is the current trend. But it does not have to be the final outcome.
Protect your child’s eyes today. Visit sleepSEE.com to see if you or your child is a candidate.