By Nigel Little 

Alternative to laser surgery  - it's a much searched term in Google and it reflects the widely held desire for people with eyesight defects to find a risk-free treatment that gives them perfect vision without the need for glasses and daytime contact lenses. Obviously, the laser surgery operators would claim that their treatment does just that but this is neither a risk-free nor reversible option. Furthermore, as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just highlighted via a public warning, some operators fail to provide the necessary information to consumers on the risks of adverse events associated with the treatment. So it is timely that a new non-surgical treatment for short-sightedness - orthokeratology or ortho-k - has been launched which does appear to offer a real alternative to laser surgery.

Ortho-k involves wearing small custom-designed contact lenses - but only while sleeping. The lenses gently flatten the surface of the eye under the mild pressure of closed eyelids to ensure that light entering the eye focuses directly on the retina and not in front of it which is why distant objects look blurry. After the lenses are removed each morning, the wearer has perfect natural vision all day long because the corrective effect of the lenses lasts for over 24 hours. So ortho-k appears to offer a genuine alternative to laser surgery  - but involving no surgery and, more importantly, the associated risks of surgery such as dry eye, adverse visual conditions such as starbursts and double vision and the possibility that glasses or contact lenses may still be required post-surgery.

In laser surgery, precise and controlled removal of corneal tissue by a special laser permanently reshapes the cornea (a part of the eye that helps focus light to create an image on the retina) and changes its focusing power. By contrast, in ortho-k the reshaping of the cornea is temporary which is why the special lenses need to be worn every night. Whilst the technology of laser surgery has unquestionably advanced significantly since its launch just over 20 years ago, there remains a treatment risk which is why the FDA website reminds consumers that the treatment is irreversible, that not all patients will achieve optimal results, and that some patients may need additional procedures. So for those people who are turned off by the risk factor and who turn to Google to find an alternative to laser surgery , ortho-k would appear to offer the answer.

Check if you are suitable for overnight ortho-k corrective contact lenses .

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