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Lenses that correct your vision when you are asleep

When many of us were young, contact lenses were only just coming into regular use.

In fact the idea is not particularly new; that amazing man Leonardo da Vinci described the concept of contact lenses over 500 years ago, and early glass contact lenses were experimented with in the late 19th century.

But it was the development of plastic that suddenly opened up the real potential for contact lenses, and during the late 1940s and early 1950s various lenses were designed and tested. To begin with they were very very difficult to wear; even the tiny lenses designed just to cover the cornea were incredibly uncomfortable and needed days and weeks of increased wearing to build up tolerance.

The big breakthrough came in 1971 thanks to the introduction of soft contact lenses and of course today lenses are worn by huge numbers.

However, development continues and the latest is orthokeratology.

What this means is the fitting of specially designed contact lenses which you wear overnight. While you are asleep, the lenses gently reshape the front surface of your cornea and in the morning, when you remove the lenses – hey presto, you should be able to see clearly.

Evidently it works best with people with mild to moderate short sight (or myopia as it is officially called), but it can help more severe myopia plus astigmatism can also be corrected by the process.

Because the corneal reshaping effect is temporary, general medical reports suggest there is little risk involved. You can discontinue wearing the lenses at any time.

When you first put in your individually made orth-k lenses, you will probably be slightly aware of them until you fall asleep. But as with normal day lenses, after a while you become totally tolerant and you stop noticing them at all.

The effects can be virtually immediate or it can take up to two weeks or even longer for the corrections to really work. Until then, you might experience some blurred vision and glare or halos around light.

For our age group, if you need bifocals or a separate prescription for reading, then this complicates matters and in some cases it can be more inconvenient because you may still need glasses to read.

But additional good news about orthokeratology is that it is now being hailed as a potential treatment to stop children developing short sightedness, something that could be important for our grand kids.

The rate of short-sightedness in Britain has doubled over the past 50 years, some of it due to the time children spend indoors looking at screens and books.

Now new results are coming out to show that children can be prevented from developing short sightedness by wearing these special soft contact lenses for a few years at night when they are young.

Quite a few trials are being run at the moment. In one three year trial which has now ended, a control group of children who were showing signs of developing short sight were given these special lenses to wear each night. At the end of the trial, none of them had suffered changes to their vision.

Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University Professor Pauline Chom, who was involved in one of the trials, said there is now a viable option for parents who are worried about myopic progression.

“Orthokeratology has been shown to effectively slow the progression of myopia in children,” she said.

If you are interested, the first step is to talk to your optician. There is also more information available at:

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