Are Ortho-K Lenses Safe?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, December 28, 2020
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Optometrists are constantly reminding us not to sleep in our contact lenses— but if ortho-k lenses are worn overnight, do they increase the risk of contact lens complications?

Ortho-k lenses are designed to reshape your cornea while you sleep, so you can benefit from clear vision during the day— without the need for glasses or contact lenses. These specialized lenses are prescribed to control the rate of myopia progression in children, as well as for vision correction without the need for daytime eyewear.

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The question is, are they safe?

Some of the most common contact lens complications include eye infections, hypoxia, corneal abrasions and corneal staining— all of which can lead to more serious conditions that can even threaten permanent vision loss.

Studies that have compared the safety of regular contact lenses to ortho-k lenses have concluded that ortho-k lenses do NOT increase your risk of contact lens complications.

Eye infections

Every year, serious eye infections affect up to 1 in 500 contact lens wearers.

The number one reason that eye infections develop from contact lens wear is inadequate contact lens hygiene— this occurs with all types of contact lenses.

Between 40-90 percent of contact lens wearers do not follow instructions on proper care for their contact lenses.

The most effective way to prevent eye infections from contact lens wear is to wash your hands before touching your eyes and contact lenses and follow your eye doctor’s instructions on how to properly disinfect and store your lenses, as well as how often to dispose and replace them.

Hypoxia

Extended, uninterrupted contact lens wear can reduce the supply of oxygen to the cornea and cause hypoxia and corneal inflammation.

If you wear your ortho-k lenses as directed and remove them each morning, your risk of hypoxia should not increase. 

Corneal abrasions (scratches)

Regular contact lenses that do not fit or adhere to the cornea properly can cause corneal abrasions.

Since ortho-k lenses do not sit directly on the cornea, but rather float on top of the tear film that covers your eye, they do not increase your risk of corneal abrasions.

Hydraulic forces reshape the central area of the cornea, without applying any pressure to the cornea itself. This makes wearing ortho-k lenses both comfortable and safe.

Occasionally, a corneal abrasion may occur, but usually only if the edge of your ortho-k lens or your fingernail scratches the surface of your eye. 

Corneal staining

Corneal staining is the most common contact lens complication that alters and distorts the surface of the cornea.

This condition is usually caused by ill-fitting contact lenses, tear film disruption, foreign matter in the eye, an allergic reaction to a contact lens solution, or a contact lens deformity.

Studies have shown that the risk of corneal staining does not increase with ortho-k lens wear.

Preventing contact lens complications

To prevent contact lens complications, it is crucial to follow your eye doctor’s instructions on proper care and hygiene.

Always ask your eye doctor before switching to a new contact lens solution, as not all solutions are compatible with ortho-k lenses.

If at any time you experience eye pain, redness, blurry vision, or discharge from your eyes, do not attempt to insert your ortho-k lenses and contact your optometrist as soon as possible.

Ortho-k lenses are a safe and effective option for myopia management and vision correction. Schedule an appointment with your optometrist to find out if ortho-k is right for you.