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Contact lenses to squish your eyes back into shape at night. - Adventures in Engineering — LiveJournal
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2007-06-06 20:28
  Subject:   Contact lenses to squish your eyes back into shape at night.
Public
  Mood:I CAN HAS 20/20 VISION?
  Tags:  digg

Despite my myopic misadventures, I was never tempted by laser surgery. Call me a wimp, but I didn't fancy the idea of having my eyes zapped by a ray gun. And I was aware that the surgery is non-reversible and the long-term effects aren't yet properly known. Since trashing my last pair of contact lenses (yes, it was Jack Daniels' fault again), I'd pretty much resigned myself to wearing specs. But recently I heard about a new treatment promising the restoration of 20/20 vision without glasses or surgery. It's called Ortho-K, or Orthokeratology, and involves wearing special contact lenses while you sleep, to correct the curvature of the eye. When you wake up the next morning and take out the lenses, you have perfect vision throughout the day.

http://news.independent.co.uk/health/article2614899.ece


I gotta get me some of these! I don't mind glasses, but they do annoy me when I'm jogging or motorcycling. And costing about the same as contact lenses, it's a heck of a lot cheaper than LASIK - at least in the short term. Works for those of us with astigmatism, too.
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dpcfmander
  User: dpcfmander
  Date: 2007-06-07 02:53 (UTC)
  Subject:   Errr... ummm... sure.
Ok, so it's *not* a gimmick... but it's *awfully* close.

So many things here I'd like to say...

First, what percentage of the population has eyesight that's just barely below 20/20 as opposed to those with perfect and those with worse? I'm guessing not enough to sustain business.

And what happens when these get in the hands of stupid people and the Walmarts of the world get sued?

And what exactly will be the long term effects? Hmmm?? What don't they know yet for sure, but have a good hypothesis of?

For once I'm being the skeptic, but more power to those who want to try it. :)
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2007-06-07 03:51 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: Errr... ummm... sure.
First, what percentage of the population has eyesight that's just barely below 20/20 as opposed to those with perfect and those with worse? I'm guessing not enough to sustain business.

It works best with -2 or -3 diopters, but still works out to -6 diopters. And that's a whole lotta people.

And what happens when these get in the hands of stupid people and the Walmarts of the world get sued?

Not happening. The FDA requires a doctor visit to get fitted. And the doc has to use a special high-tech machine to measure your eyes and figure out what exact shape the lenses need to be in order to treat your personal cornea warpage.

And what exactly will be the long term effects? Hmmm?? What don't they know yet for sure, but have a good hypothesis of?

It's been around since 2001 and nobody's damaged their eyes from using it correctly that I've been able to find. Some people washed their lenses in tap water and hurt their eyes that way. But you're not supposed to do that. Other than that, there's no more danger in these than there is in rigid gas-permeable contacts.

And, unlike burning away parts of your cornea with a laser, this is 100% reversible. You take the lenses out and leave them out, and your eyes gradually go back to the (incorrect) shape they were before.


The real objections are:

1) How much does it hurt for the first week you have these things in? (A lot, for some people.)

and

2) What's the long-term cost of buying lens cleaner and eye-drops? More or less than just doing LASIK once a decade and forgetting about it the rest of the time? (Not sure, I haven't done the math.)
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Pacchi
  User: pacchi
  Date: 2007-06-07 04:25 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: Errr... ummm... sure.
Real Objections, my 2 cents:

1) my only experience with lenses designed to correct my shortsightedness, was the older, progressive series lenses which were not custom made for my eyes, but they were not more uncomfortable than contact lenses which were slightly more prone to feeling dry. I guess this may not even be applicable considering the old approach was gentler and the new lenses probably have better hydration and gas permeability, which is better for comfort and eye health.
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Pacchi
  User: pacchi
  Date: 2007-06-07 04:19 (UTC)
  Subject:   dammit, macky's is on the ball
you're too fast :P
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Willow: Stars
  User: willow_red
  Date: 2007-06-07 17:39 (UTC)
  Subject:   I Can Answer Most, If Not All, of Your Questions
Keyword:Stars
There's some incorrect, or at least misleading, information in this article. How do I know? Because I first found out about Ortho-K back in 1996, and have been using it as a vision-correction method for about a decade now.

When I was 18, and getting ready to go to college, I went to the eye doctor. I had been wearing glasses since I was 10, and soft contacts throughout high school, as my vision deteriorated. By age 18, however, a person's vision is supposed to start leveling off, but it turned out that I was one of the lucky few for whom soft contacts accelerate damage. In order to stop this, my doctor switched me to hard gas-permeable contacts, and told me about Ortho-K. These were not specific Ortho-K contacts, but it was an act of desperation, as my prescription was up to a -6, and frankly, I was scared of going blind.

The following year, when I was 19, that eye doctor had left, and was replaced by a new guy, fresh out of optometry school. I was happy to find out that the hard contacts had done the trick, and maintained my prescription at -6. At that time, we discussed my options. Naturally, he first recommended surgery, but I wanted no part of that. At the time, I was still intent on being an astronaut, and the greatest threat to that was my poor vision. (The vision requirement for Mission Specialists had a cutoff at -2, and eye surgery was an automatic disqualification.) As of 1997, Ortho-K had mostly been used in kids in their early to mid-teens, and only for those with -2 or weaker prescriptions. I was considered "old" for the treatment, and my eyes were far worse than would be recommended to try it.

However, my doctor was young, enthusiastic, and saw the potential for a good experiment. We discussed the pros and cons of trying this, and I thought it was worth it. There didn't seem to be a downside, since if it didn't work, nothing changed for me. But if it did work, and we set a goal to get me down to a -2 (which we defined as a crazy level of success), I could once again qualify for the astronaut corps. (Also as part of the deal, he gave me huge discounts on the cost of exams and lenses, since I couldn't afford full price, had no insurance, and he was using me as a test subject in his study.)

At the time, the method of Ortho-K used many pairs of contacts, but we went slowly, since I was coming from such a bad prescription. I don't remember how long it took for me to get down to a -2, but I'm pretty sure that it happened within that first year. Again, since it was the older method, it didn't require any equipment fancier than what a standard eye doctor's office has on hand. I should also point out that I have rather nasty astigmatisms in both eyes, that were essentially gone after the first pair of contacts.

In 1999, I found out that Ortho-K is the *only* method of vision correction permitted for astronauts. (I think it's allowed for fighter pilots too, but I'd have to check on that.) Anyway, by this point, I was down to -0.5, that is to say, 20/40 in one eye, 20/50 in the other. My eye doctor said that, if I wanted to, I could try to get my glasses/contacts restriction taken off of my driver's license, though I wasn't comfortable with that.

With Ortho-K, you have the option of wearing the lenses either during the day, or at night while you sleep. With the exception of the very bad allergy season in summer 2000, I've always opted to wear my lenses during the day. My eyes are very elastic, which is why I did so well with the procedure in the first place, but that also has the downside of my eyes regressing significantly over the course of a day.

Another thing that makes me glad that I was wearing hard contacts happened two years ago, when Akito was a puppy. I think I told you the story of how he bit me in the eye. Well, since I was wearing a hard contact at the time, yes, it scratched up my cornea nicely, but it protected my eye from any toothmarks or nasty puppy mouth bacteria. I still had that scratch on my cornea until a few weeks ago.
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Willow: Stars
  User: willow_red
  Date: 2007-06-07 17:40 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: I Can Answer Most, If Not All, of Your Questions
Keyword:Stars
(...stupid LJ comment character limit)

This year, when I went to see my eye doctor again, he was concerned that the scratch hadn't yet healed, and wanted to take me out of my hard contacts. There were actually multiple reasons for this. 1) Heal the scratch. 2) See just how far my eyes would regress, now that I'm older and less elastic. 3) With the spiffy new technological developments in Ortho-K, it was time for an upgrade, but that upgrade requires starting over again.

So now I've been in soft toric contacts again for about six weeks. My eyes did most of their regression in the first couple of days, and damn, was that scary! The scratch on my cornea is all healed up, and my prescription is floating somewhere around -3.5ish. I have an appointment to go back at the end of this month, and we will discuss my options again, probably opting for whichever branch of Ortho-K will work best for my astigmatism. But if you're interested, I can tell you more about that as I find out.

So in reply to all the other comments here, no, it's not a gimmick. Well, unless you consider braces a gimmick to make teeth straight, given that it really is the same principle. You don't have to be a genius to pull this off. Joe Sixpack, as long as his eyes water normally, can handle Ortho-K contacts without hurting himself.

As for long-term effects, your eyes do need a break from hard contacts, roughly once a decade (like I'm doing). As technology improves, this too might be relaxed. I imagine that as a person ages, if your eyes stop watering enough to be able to wear contacts, well, I guess that's the end of that. But I'm not worried about that happening anytime soon.

(I have to smile that I'm one of the data points that proved this technology out to -6 diopters.) Oh, and just for the record, my eye doctor *is* at a Wal-Mart. He's one of a very few reasons that will get me in a Wal-Mart anymore, but he's the best eye doctor I've ever had, and there have been several over the past 20 years.

On the issue of tap water, unless the lenses have changed that much (which I'll find out in a few weeks), you're *supposed* to rinse them with tap water, and I found that to be part of the appeal, since now I didn't have to carry around as many solutions. Having read that article, I suspect that the people in Asia might have been rinsing their lenses with *contaminated* tap water, and that would make all the difference.

The lenses don't hurt any more or less than standard hard contacts. With that said, however, getting grit in your eye can be *very* painful. Makes things interesting on a windy day in Colorado.

Cost vs. LASIK. For my lenses (and again, this might change when I go to the new lenses), I used three solutions: a conditioning solution, an enzyme solution (to prevent protein buildup), and a cleaner. The conditioning solution runs ~$9 and lasts for two months, so say ~$54/year. The enzyme solution runs ~$6.50 and lasts about a month, or ~$78/year. The cleaner I've been using doesn't seem to be made anymore, but it cost ~$5 and a bottle lasted about a year. So when you add it all up, it's less than $140 per year. Is LASIK down to $1400 yet? Of course, part of the trade is if you are willing to have surgery and the risks associated with it, versus a 5-minute daily routine.

I'm sorry for posting such a freaking long comment in your journal, but I wanted to be comprehensive. If I missed anything, or you have other questions, let me know. Also, if you are interested in looking into this more, I'd be happy to give you the name and number of my eye doctor.
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Ashfae
  User: ashfae
  Date: 2007-06-07 20:46 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: I Can Answer Most, If Not All, of Your Questions
Dunno about mackys, but I'm extremely interested in this. Would you be willing to post further developments (if events warrent) in your lj, or email them to me? I'm fascinated by all this, having been in "Someday maybe I'll get laser eye surgery, if I can ever afford it" mode for years.
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Willow: Stars
  User: willow_red
  Date: 2007-06-07 22:12 (UTC)
  Subject:   Sure Thing
Keyword:Stars
I never posted about any of this because I generally think "so I was at the eye doctor today..." stories are boring. I'll repost some of this background stuff soon, with an update to come in about a month.
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2007-06-07 23:55 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: I Can Answer Most, If Not All, of Your Questions
That's really great info. Thanks a lot for sharing! And no, I don't think you can get any kind of lasik you can trust for $1400 yet. $1400 *per eye* maybe...
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