Orthokeratology—A Clear Alternative to LASIK
As advanced and safe as laser vision correction such as LASIK has become, many people remain wary about undergoing any kind of surgical procedure on their eyes.
Fortunately for them, there’s a viable and increasingly popular alternative known as orthokeratology. Commonly referred to as ortho-k, this solution uses custom-fitted gas-permeable contact lenses to correct nearsightedness by gently and directly reshaping the cornea to its natural round form. In many instances these hard lenses can also fix astigmatism.
Ortho-k has actually been around for several decades. The technology to manufacture the special lenses that allow people to wear them while sleeping, however, has only come out recently.
For athletes and anyone working in dusty, gritty environments where regular contact lenses typically get gummed up, ortho-k is an ideal solution. It also holds great promise for nearsighted and astigmatic children, who can’t have LASIK surgery until they’re eighteen. And new research suggests that orthokeratology may lessen or at least arrest the advance of nearsightedness.
Before fitting you with the special lenses, your ophthalmologist or other eyecare specialist will assess the overall health of your eyes and your vision using what’s called corneal mapping. This is a quick and painless procedure that produces a topographical map of your eye’s surface.
With the data gleaned from the corneal mapping, you eye physician will fit you with custom lenses with hundreds of lathe-cut curves that closely match the shape of your corneas.
The effects of the lenses is temporary, by the way—you have to wear them every night to maintain your upgraded vision. “The following day the patient can enjoy excellent vision for between 12 and 20 hours on average,” says Dr. Takuji Kato, whose Kato Eye Clinic in Tokyo has fitted over two thousand patients with ortho-k lenses—the most in Japan.
According to Dr. Kato, people with light to moderate myopia can take advantage of the ortho-k option, but those with very strong myopia are not good candidates. And age generally isn’t a factor as long as your eyes are healthy.
Ortho-k is also reversible—just stop wearing the lenses—and will not prevent you from having LASIK done later on. The price varies quite a bit depending on the eyecare practitioner and aftercare, but generally speaking will cost about half of what LASIKsurgery would. It’s an attractive option for many reasons.
Takuji kato, Director of Kato Eye Clinic
Dr. Takuji Kato earned his medical degree in ophthalmology in 1990 from Juntendo University School of Medicine in Tokyo. In addition to residencies in both anesthesiology and ophthalmology, he has worked at the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center and headed Juntendo’s ophthalmology department. His primary area of expertise is the cornea.
From 1999 to 2001, Dr. Kato was also a research fellow at two Harvard University affiliates, the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary and Schepens Eye Research Institute. He discovered new functions for type 18 collagen that promoted wound healing in the cornea. During that period he also won two awards: a Bausch & Lomb & MEEI research fellowship award in 1999, and a Japan Eye Bank research award in 2000.