By Jacqui Mayhew

Orthokeratology research  which assesses the effectiveness of overnight ortho-k lenses not only in correcting childhood myopia but also in preventing it from worsening is increasingly pointing to this treatment being superior to all other alternatives. A recent Cochrane Library review of randomised clinical trials which assessed data from 23 studies covering almost 5,000 children concluded that traditional treatments such as bifocal glasses, conventional daytime contact lenses, eye drops and intra-ocular pressure lowering drugs were either ineffective or impractical because of side effects. However, whilst not yet the subject of large scale randomised clinical trials, the many international studies completed to date on the use of overnight ortho-k lenses to correct and control myopia progression have yielded consistently positive results. 

Traditionally, a child attending an optician for an eye examination who proves to be shortsighted - that is, unable to focus clearly on distant objects - is prescribed spectacles which are intended to provide full vision correction. However, spectacles have minimal effect in preventing the child's eyesight continuing to deteriorate and increasingly stronger prescription versions are likely to be required. This has led to testing the controlled use of eye drops such as atropine which have shown slightly better results in slowing the rate of myopic progression in children but which leads to dilated eyes and in any event is not commercially available as a treatment. However, orthokeratology research  has indicated that no side effects arise in the use of overnight ortho-k lenses for correcting and controlling myopia in children.

Many opticians are still reluctant to prescribe contact lenses for children and there is still some opposition to wearing contact lenses overnight while sleeping. However, major advancements in the technology of lens materials over the past 10 years now make overnight wear completely safe. During sleep, ortho-k lenses gently flatten the surface of the eye to correct the child's vision and the effect lasts all day long after the lenses are removed in the morning so that the child enjoys perfect daytime vision without glasses or contact lenses. One of the world leaders in orthokeratology research  is Professor Helen Swarbrick from the University of New South Wales who says: "If we use this technique with children who are developing short-sightedness, they stop becoming more short-sighted. Our research has demonstrated this quite clearly."

Check if your child is suitable for overnight ortho-k lenses  to correct and control shortsightedness.

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