My earliest memory of being short sighted was sitting at the back of class in year 5, squinting up at a projection from an OHP (that’s overhead projector, for you millennials!). At that time, I thought it was just my eyesight playing up. But then my mum called me out on squinting at the TV and dragged me off for an eye test.
What followed was my very first pair of ugly glasses and the start of years of struggle to work glasses into my style without coming across as dorky or nerdy. Let’s just say I failed at both. So I tried to convert to daily contacts, but they dried out my eyes and triggered headaches. After being traumatised by a documentary I watched in my teens, laser surgery was never even considered as an option.
It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I caught on to a new (for me) technology called Orthokeratology (Ortho-k for short). In a nutshell, they’re hard prescription contact lenses worn to sleep at night. I know, I know, it goes against all they normally teach us about contacts, but hear me out: The idea is they gently mould your eyes while sleeping to correct the prescription and you wake up with perfect vision the next morning. Apart from the first week or two to get my eyes adjusted to wearing hard lenses, after taking them out in the morning, I get good vision all day without the need for glasses, contact lenses, or laser surgery.
Ortho-Ks are a specialised service, so not all optometrists offer it. Tests also need to be done to check if someone’s eyes are suitable (as in, whether your eyes can be moulded easily). The lenses also have prescriptions, so you can still wear them around like normal contacts. This isn’t recommended for long periods of time as I find them very drying and irritating after a while. Mostly because the diameter of Ortho-k lenses are only large enough to sit over the iris (while soft contact lenses usually extend across to the sclera).
Vision correction by Ortho-ks work gradually over a few days when they’re first worn. I got about 60% correction for the first day, then gradual improvement over the course of a week. I won’t lie; they were difficult to get used to at the start because once I had them on, I had to go straight to sleep. I couldn’t keep my eyes open due to the feeling of having something foreign in my eye. After wearing my Ortho-Ks for over 5 years now, I can put them on and fluff around a bit before actual bedtime. The downside is my eyes does slowly revert back throughout the day, meaning I need to wear these lenses every night and must get good shut-eye to ensure they work for the next day. However, having worn these for so long, I have gotten by up to 2 days (or skipping 1 night).
Besides a few mishaps like forgetting to bring my lenses while travelling, accidentally breaking the lenses, or losing one down the drain, they’ve been pretty good. Notice how it’s all related to me being a klutz? In all honesty, I wouldn’t ever go back to any other option (least of all laser surgery, because I’m downright petrified of all the “what ifs”). In regards to costs, the lenses are a bit dearer to start. However, they can be bulk-billed and don’t need to be changed each year (I average around 2 years, accidents not withstanding). Ortho-k lenses do require specialised cleaning and soaking solutions, which are also only available in selected optometrists (do not clean/soak them with soft contact solution!). With all that added up, it probably costs the same as a pair of glasses per year, although I find them much more convenient.
These lenses will probably suit someone who’s consistent in wearing them. Then again, I’m pretty forgetful, but was able to stick to it once the routine developed into a habit. In fact, it even feels weird now if I jump in bed without the lenses. As usual, please do your own research and ask your optometrist lots of questions. It generally starts off with a pair of trial lenses, and you’ll have annoying vision problems during this time while your eyes adjust. Best to do this during some time off work as unfortunately, you can’t just put glasses or contacts back on due to your changing eyesight (since glasses or contacts have a static prescription).
What do you think about Ortho-Ks?
Would you consider these over soft contacts or laser surgery?