Blog Hero

What Are Ortho-K Lenses Used For?

Book Appointment
A woman holding a contact lens between her fingers

If you wear contact lenses to see clearly, you already know finding the right pair can be difficult. The best contacts for you come down to your specific needs and lifestyle choices. For example, an optometrist can offer contact lenses for hard-to-fit eyes or people needing extra hydration. You can even have contacts that correct your vision while you sleep!

Ortho-k lenses can temporarily reshape your cornea at night and are used to correct your vision throughout the day. These lenses are typically used to correct myopia (a.k.a. nearsightedness) and can effectively reduce progression in children. 

How Do Ortho-K Lenses Work?

When light enters our eyes, it first passes through the cornea and the lens. The cornea is the clear dome at the front of your eye, and when light rays move through it, they’re bent (or refracted). The crystalline lens then focuses the rays on the layer of light-reactive cells at the back of the eye called the retina. This entire process gives a clear view of the world around us.

The light wouldn’t focus on the retina if the cornea wasn’t shaped perfectly right. Instead, it’ll focus in front or behind it. This condition is called a refractive error.

Ortho-k lenses apply gentle pressure on your cornea, reshaping it to focus light correctly. For example, if you have myopia your eye has either grown too long or the cornea is curved too steeply. This curve means light focuses before your retina, making distant objects appear blurry.

A diagram showing how the light shines in a normal eye, compared to a myopic eye. People with myopia cannot see distant objects very well because the eyeball is elongated

Ortho-k lenses are worn overnight and can flatten your cornea, which may correct your vision. It’s not permanent, however, and your eye will slowly return to its natural shape, but while it’s corrected, you should be able to see clearly without glasses or contacts! Studies have shown it’s an effective way to correct myopia.

A graphic describing how ortho-k lenses can flatten the cornea when wearing it and afterwards

The fact that the change is reversible can also benefit you if you decide to stop wearing the lenses. It can be an excellent way to try going lensless before pursuing something more permanent, like laser eye surgery.

Ortho-K and Myopia Control

While adults can use ortho-k to correct myopia, myopic children may stand to benefit even more in the form of myopia control.

Myopia is a growing problem, with researchers estimating 50% of the population will have it by 2050. It typically first appears when you’re a child and your eyes are still growing. In time, your eyes will grow longer, your myopia will worsen, and it could eventually lead to a higher risk of severe eye conditions such as:

  • A detached retina
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Macular Degeneration

Though myopia generally stabilizes around the age of 20, before this, it may just keep getting worse. 

Fortunately, eye experts have developed advanced techniques designed to slow myopia progression. These techniques include ortho-k lenses, which could slow myopia progression in children by up to 56%!

Will Ortho-K Work for Me?

The amount of reshaping you need will depend on your prescription. Whether it’s you or your child, the first step is a comprehensive eye exam. Your optometrist will use an advanced imaging technology called a Topographer to measure your cornea’s surface. Ultimately, we have a map of your cornea’s ridges and curves and can make specialized contact lenses for your eyes.

Since you’ll be sleeping in these lenses, manufacturers design them to be gas-permeable. Typically, you don’t want to wear contact lenses while taking a nap, so ortho-k lenses let as much oxygen as they can through to your eyes.

Ortho-k lenses also require a decent amount of discipline on the part of you or your child. You need to wear them every night to maintain the corneal reshaping. You also may have to go through a series of lenses before getting to the ones that are right for you, so it could take a few days or weeks to see improvement.

Managing Myopia with KidSight

At Orchard Park Optometry in Kelowna, we’re committed to helping you protect your child’s vision. KidSight is our program designed to find the correct lens to slow myopia’s progression and track your kid’s vision with regular checkups.

If you want to learn more about how ortho-k lenses can help you or your child, book an appointment with our friendly team today! We’re excited to see you!

Dr. Keevn Otte

Written by Dr. Keevn Otte

Dr. Keevn Otte joined Orchard Park Optometry in 2015 and became a partner in 2018. Keevn grew up in a small community in Minnesota and graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in biomedical science and chemistry. He attended Pacific University College of Optometry in Oregon, graduating in spring 2015 and receiving their Outstanding Clinician Award for that year. He was also a member of the Beta Sigma Kappa Optometric Honor Society.

More Articles By Dr. Keevn Otte
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax