Myopia, better known as nearsightedness, affects an estimated 42% of the U.S. population and is only expected to grow over the coming decade. Myopia is a condition where the patient can see nearby objects, including small details, clearly– such as words on the page of a book. However, anything they try and view at a distance, such as road signs, will appear blurry and may even be completely impossible to make out.
To be able to see clearly, light passes through our eyes and is refracted by an area on the front of the eye called the cornea. This ensures that light hits an area of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye called the retina, which receives the light and transmits it as a signal to the brain to tell us what we can see. Patients with myopia either have an uneven curvature to their cornea or an eyeball that has grown too long in comparison to its focusing power, causing the light to be refracted in front of rather than onto the retina. The result? A confused message from the retina to the optic nerve, causing blurred vision.
Myopia is a progressive condition, meaning that without treatment, it will get continually worse. Patients who have high levels of myopia are more likely to go on to experience other visual problems and even some eye diseases in the future including glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration. As such, myopia treatment isn’t only about being able to see clearly day to day, but also about preventing myopia progression. This is where a treatment called orthokeratology can help.
Myopia can affect any patient of any age. Nevertheless, there are some things that can influence the degree with which you risk developing the condition. These include:
Genetics, since myopia tends to run in families
A lack of time outdoors
Excessive screen time, such as using a computer or smartphone
Doing tasks that require a lot of close attention, such as sewing or small mechanical repairs of jewelry or watches
Common symptoms of myopia include:
Blurred vision when looking at objects that are some distance away
Blinking excessively to help you focus
Rubbing your eyes frequently
Problems driving at night due to glare
Needing to sit closer to the television to see it
Orthokeratology is the name given to an innovative treatment that has several distinct benefits. You may also hear it being referred to as ‘ortho-k’ for short. The treatment enables patients to both see during the day without needing to wear glasses or contact lenses and can also slow and even prevent the progression of myopia. It does this by using specialty contact lenses. These lenses, which are created specifically for each patient based on their individual ocular requirements, are made from a material that is safe to be worn overnight. As you sleep, a combination of gentle pressure exerted onto your cornea and the flow of tear film over the eyes reshapes them so that they take on a more regular domed appearance. The next morning, patients can remove the lenses and their eyes will retain the new shape for hours, enabling them to see clearly without them needing to wear glasses or contact lenses.
Since the effects of orthokeratology are only temporary, it is necessary to wear the lenses every night in order to enjoy clear vision for an entire day at a time, as well as to prevent the progression of your myopia. Should you cease treatment, your vision will return to normal and your myopia could continue to get progressively worse. Fortunately, studies have shown that orthokeratology can potentially slow the progression of myopia by anywhere between 36-56% when compared to other conventional methods of treating myopia such as glasses or regular contact lenses.
If you have myopia and are concerned about its progression, or if you have further questions about orthokeratology, please contact our expert eyecare specialists for more information or to schedule an appointment.