Ortho-K, a Little Known Contact Lens Alternative for Athletes
A nearsighted athlete’s greatest nightmare is to break one’s glasses or have contact lenses fall out during play. Fortunately, there exists a non-surgical option that eliminates the need to wear glasses and contacts while providing clear vision. Orthokeratology, also called ortho-k, are overnight lenses that gently reshape the cornea overnight to offer sharp vision throughout the day.
If you’re interested in clear and crisp vision all day long, contact us at Blacksburg Eye Associates. We offer a comprehensive eye exam and custom fitting for ortho-k lenses.
Why Athletes With Myopia Should Look for Alternatives
There’s no question that myopia (nearsightedness) is a disadvantage for athletes. Glasses are a physical hindrance and certainly can limit an athlete’s performance. Glasses can move around on the face, get foggy when you sweat, and may obstruct your peripheral vision.
Contact lenses could be a better alternative to glasses, but they too have issues as they can move out of place or dry up, causing fluctuating or blurred vision. Having dry eyes or getting sand kicked onto your face are also major concerns if you wear contact lenses.
Ortho-k provides athletes with clear, comfortable and stable vision and excellent peripheral vision without having to wear any glasses or contacts throughout the day. Ortho-k might just be the perfect solution for a young athlete striving for success on the sports field.
What Is Orthokeratology?
Orthokeratology, also known as corneal reshaping therapy (CRT), is a safe, non-surgical, non-evasive, and reversible treatment for myopia, astigmatism, and farsightedness (hyperopia).
An ortho-k lens is a rigid gas permeable lens (RGP), custom-designed to the shape of a person’s cornea — the front part of the eye. This lens is very comfortable and is worn only at night, during which time it gently reshapes the cornea into the correct shape. Once the lenses are removed in the morning, the athlete can enjoy clear vision all day long.
Another advantage of ortho-k is that the gentle reshaping is temporary, meaning there is no permanent change to the corneal shape. The cornea slowly returns to its original curvature by the late evening.
How Can Athletes Benefit From Ortho-K?
For the first time, a young or adult athlete can experience perfect vision without having to resort to surgery or depending on optical corrections, such as glasses or contact lenses. Benefits of ortho-k include:
- Achieving clear, sharp, and stable vision.
- No longer having to worry that glasses or contact lenses will move around, get knocked off, get broken or lost.
- Reduced concerns around fluctuating vision, sand in your face, and other visual discomforts.
- No longer having to carry around spare contacts, glasses, or solution.
Why Should Athletes Start Ortho-K During Childhood?
Ortho-k is also an effective myopia management method for children, as it can slow down the myopic progression and prevent the continual increase in your child’s prescription.
Athletes can benefit from a lower level of myopia as adults if they use ortho-k lenses during childhood and early adolescence. This is particularly significant, since high myopia has been linked to vision-threatening conditions later in life, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, and retinal detachment.
Advantages of Ortho-K Over Regular Contact Lenses
While contact lenses work well for certain sports, they also tend to dry out due to infrequent blinking over an extended period of time. In sports that require prolonged concentration or focus, such as baseball, tennis, archery, or even basketball, athletes are particularly prone to blinking less. This can cause the contacts to dry out, resulting in foggy or fluctuating vision.
As mentioned earlier, contact lenses can move off-center, especially during contact sports, such as football and hockey or martial arts, such as boxing and judo where the body gets jolted around. Even fast, sudden head movements or water splashing into the eye can cause the lens to move out of place.
In those with eye allergies, contact lenses can feel unbearable, as it exacerbates the already itchy, dry, and gritty eyes.
Orthokeratology provides an ideal solution for all these issues.
Advantages of Ortho-K Over LASIK Surgery
Many active adult athletes choose a surgical solution, such as LASIK, to permanently rid themselves of their specific vision problems, such as astigmatism, myopia, and hyperopia.
Surgical intervention is never without risk. Certain complications may arise following LASIK surgery, including sensitivity to light, glares, astigmatism, and chronic dry eye — any of which could significantly impact an athlete’s performance. Further complications, such as poor corneal healing and corneal thinning, can cause long term or even permanent changes to vision and could even mark the end of an athlete’s career.
LASIK surgery is not an option until roughly the age of 21 since prior to that the eyes are still developing. The earlier years, however, are those in which young athletes learn sports and develop most of their athletic skills. It’s a time when clear, sharp, and comfortable vision is an absolute must!
Ortho-k offers an excellent solution for any athlete seeking clear, comfortable, and sharp vision all day long.
How Can You Obtain Ortho-K Lenses?
An optometrist who focuses on myopia management, such as Dr. Colleen Mitchell and Dr. Adrianna Hempelmann, can provide ortho-k lenses. At Blacksburg Eye Associates, we examine the athlete’s eyes and create an exact topographic map of the cornea’s surface with the help of specialized equipment. The ortho-k contact lenses are then custom-designed to meet the individual’s requirements.
We will also provide guidance on caring for and cleaning the lenses.
Don’t let vision issues get in the way of achieving your best on the sports field. If glasses or contacts are getting in the way of your or your child’s athletic performance, contact Dr. Colleen Mitchell and Dr. Adrianna Hempelmann at Blacksburg Eye Associates to schedule an eye exam today.
Blacksburg Eye Associates serves patients from Blacksburg, Radford, Christiansburg, New River Valley, and throughout Virginia.