Orthokeratology (also know as ortho-k or corneal reshaping) is a safe and effective overnight treatment for myopia, or “near-sightedness.”
Myopia, or near-sightedness, is on the rise in a big way. Not only are more children than ever developing myopia, the severity is also increasing rapidly. The prevalence of myopia has increased 66% in this country since 1971 and it’s estimated that half of the world's population will be myopic by 2050. Higher levels of myopia have a number of negative health consequences. Risks include an increase likelihood of glaucoma, early cataracts, and retinal detachments. Higher amounts of myopia also impact quality of life as they result in and increase dependency in vision correction devices and a reduction in refractive surgery candidacy.
How does orthokeratology work?
Orthokeratology (ortho-k) is a process that involves wearing an overnight contact lens device. The device gently molds the cornea to correct myopia and thereby eliminates the need for any daytime contacts or glasses. The treatment also help to stop or significantly slow the progression of myopia, making it ideal for children and teenagers. The treatment effects are reversible by simply discontinuing the devices.
Is orthokeratology safe?
Ortho-k was FDA approved in 2001 and is a safe and effective treatment for myopia. It’s myopia control effect makes it far more beneficial for younger patients than traditional contacts and glasses. The risks associated with orthokeratology are the same as those for any contact lens wearer and can be mitigated with proper lens hygiene.
Who should have ortho-k?
Anyone with a prescription under -5.00D and with minimal astigmatism is a good candidate for orthokeratology, but it is especially beneficial for children and people under 21 years old, since they will have the highest risk of myopic progression with traditional contacts and glasses. There is no minimum age under the FDA approval, and we at Kirkwood Eye Associates have successfully treated patients as young as 6 years old. The earlier you start ortho-k, the better you can control the myopia. Typically, we offer to move patients into traditional vision correction devices or consider refractive surgery after 21 years of age, but some patients elect to continue ortho-k through their 20’s and beyond because of its convince.
How much does ortho-k cost? Is it covered by insurance?
Cost can vary depending on the extent of treatment but it typically is around $80 a month. Some more advance and high risk patients might require atropine therapy that can slightly increase the fee. The treatment is not covered by vision or medical insurance.
Are there alternatives to ortho-k?
There are other myopia control options offered at Kirkwood Eye Associates. Atropine drop therapy is a compounded medication that can help slow eye growth. MiSight soft daily disposable soft contact lenses are FDA approved to slow down myopic progression as well.
Andrew Biondo, OD, FSLS is the Primary Medical Director at Kirkwood Eye Associates in Kirkwood, MO. Serving the greater St. Louis area, Dr. Biondo has 12 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator & consultant to the specialty contact lens industry. His special interests include contact lenses, dry eye disease, glaucoma, macular degeneration, laser eye surgery & preventive vision care.