By Nigel Little 

Ortho-k opticians  who provide the specialist treatment of orthokeratology - usually referred to as ortho-k - are finding this unique approach to correcting short-sightedness is an effective means of attracting customers away from the major high street chains such as Specsavers, Boots Opticians and Vision Express who do not offer it. Ortho-k involves the wearing of small, custom-designed contact lenses overnight while sleeping which gently flatten the cornea under the mild pressure of closed eyelids. This corrects the angle at which light enters the eye to ensure it focuses directly on the retina and not in front of it and the effect lasts for over 24 hours. So after removing the lenses each morning, the wearer enjoys perfect natural vision all day long until reinserting the lenses at night.

Given that ortho-k offers all the benefits of laser surgery - but without the surgery, it is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to conventional treatments such as glasses or daytime contact lenses. However, because it requires more specialist clinical skills and involves a series of appointments over 4-5 weeks, the high street chains see it as being less financially attractive than promoting conventional treatments - especially since their margins on spectacle frames are so high. As a result, ortho-k opticians  - who are all independent practitioners - have the field to themselves and are increasingly using the treatment to promote their clinical expertise as well as helping to demonstrate their high service standards.

Additionally, at a time of year when many people are focused on the requirements of going back to school for the start of the new academic year, ortho-k opticians  are highlighting to parents how important ortho-k is as a treatment for short-sighted children as young as six years old. Clinical studies and research  programmes have demonstrated that ortho-k not only corrects short-sightedness in children - it also stops it getting any worse. This is a hugely important breakthrough given that childhood short-sightedness can typically worsen by as much as half a diopter each year meaning that a low prescription as a young child could become a very high prescription by adulthood. So another reason for the high street chains to worry about losing business to the independents.

See if you or your child are suitable for overnight ortho-k corrective contact lenses .

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