Braces For Your Eyes

The advances in vision correction are almost as quick as advances in computer technology. The latest way to see clearly doesn't even involve surgery or lasers. Does it sound too good to be true to say you may be able to correct your vision while you sleep? Well, it's true. This is the latest way to turn those fuzzy words into fine print. Those who wear contact lenses know you aren't supposed to sleep in them. Most lenses aren't designed to allow adequate oxygen to reach the eyeball when eyelids are closed for long periods. Anyone who has fallen asleep wearing contacts knows the unpleasant sensation of gritty, morning-after dryness.


But that may be a thing of the past. New research is underway which may eliminate the daily ritual of lens wearers having to "put their eyes in" each morning.

The Food and Drug Administration is completing trials of a special hard lens that corrects vision while you sleep. Researchers say gas permeable, orthokeratology lenses are safe and can promote clearer vision. Think of it as braces for your eyes. The contacts will mold a new shape of you cornea, allowing better vision. The contact is designed to flatten the curvature of the front surface of the eye, which changes the focal point. A series of contact lens is worn as the cornea incrementally changes shape. A final "retainer lens" is then worn indefinitely for a set time each day. Right now the lenses can treat nearsightedness and astigmatism. Research is underway to treat farsightedness.

Orthokeratology (or "Ortho-K") lens for daytime have been available for years. However the night lens is slightly different. Doctors also believe that pressure from the eye lid being closed will enhance the process. Priced between US$1,500 and $3,500,""Ortho-K" is for people with healthy eyes who need small to moderate vision correction.

Some eye care providers use special names to market Ortho-K, such as "precise corneal molding" (PCM) or "controlled kerato-reformation" (CKR). Patients involved in the trials of Ortho-K say the contacts are easy to use, with little risk of falling out. Results are seen after a period of weeks to months.

In a small study at Ohio State University, researchers saw improvement in the daytime eyesight of seven out of eight nearsighted subjects after just seven nights of wearing Ortho-K contact lenses.

"Most of the improvement occurred during the first seven nights of lens wear," said Joseph Barr, a co-author of the study and a professor of optometry. "Daytime vision continued to improve beyond the seventh night, and tended to level off around day 30. When the participants took the lenses out, their corneas were shaped like they had undergone refractive surgery."

The study appears in a recent issue of the journal "Optometry and Vision Science."

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