By Steve Roberts
Contact lenses for children worn only while sleeping can stop shortsightedness progressing according to research undertaken by Professor Helen Swarbrick and her team at the Research in Orthokeratology (ROK) Group which is part of the University of New South Wales. Since 2004, the ROK Group has been undertaking research into orthokeratology (otherwise known as ortho-k or overnight vision correction) which is a unique treatment for correcting shortsightedness. Small bespoke contact lenses are worn at night while asleep then removed the next morning to provide the wearer with clear, natural daytime vision. The lenses gently flatten the surface of the eye during sleep to ensure light focuses directly on the retina rather than in front of it and the effect lasts for a full day until the lenses are reinserted the following evening.
The ROK Group initially investigated how the ortho-k effect works and also whether there were any additional risks associated with the treatment with the latter research concluding that there was no greater risk with ortho-k than when wearing conventional contact lenses. However, a key interest for Professor Swarbrick and her team was the emerging evidence from various trials and research programmes which indicated ortho-k contact lenses for children could slow or actually stop shortsightedness (known as myopia) worsening. Hence they designed a unique research study whereby a group of shortsighted children would wear an ortho-k contact lens in one eye and a conventional daily wear RGP lens in the other eye for 6 months then swap lenses for a further 6 months.
The results of this study were presented at the 2011 Association for Research in Vision and Opthalmology (ARVO) conference held earlier this year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and provided highly statistically significant data. Professor Swarbrick said: "Our study provides compelling evidence that orthokeratology does have an effect on the growth of the eye in myopia." This is a critically important conclusion since shortsightedness results from the eye elongating over time so that light focuses in front of the retina rather than directly on it. By wearing ortho-k contact lenses for children , not only does this correct their shortsightedness but it also stops the eye from continuing to elongate thus preventing their shortsightedness from getting worse.
Check if your child is suitable for overnight ortho-k contact lenses for children .