It sounds like a medical marvel from a science-fiction novel: A contact lens that restores vision after overnight use.
But, in fact, new “OK” lenses can restore vision virtually overnight to middle-aged patients with a vision condition known as presbyopia. The lenses can markedly improve up-close vision in one eye by effectively reshaping the cornea, according to a study by researchers at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.
"The authors have shown the feasibility of correcting one eye for near vision through OK, in which overnight contact lens wear shapes the cornea of one eye to allow in-focus near vision for reading," noted Anthony Adams, editor of the journal Optometry and Vision Science, which reported the findings.
By middle age, most people have age-related declines in near vision (presbyopia) requiring bifocals or reading glasses, the researchers noted. But an emerging technique called hyperopic orthokeratology (OK) may provide a new alternative for restoring near vision without the need for glasses, according to the study.
For the study, researchers tracked 16 middle-aged patients with presbyopia who underwent OK therapy, which uses specially designed rigid contact lenses to manipulate the shape of the cornea. Adams likened OK therapy to orthodontic treatment using braces to change the alignment of the teeth.
Each patient in the study wore a custom-made OK lens in one eye overnight for one week. In all patients, the OK technique restored near vision in the treated eye. Eye examination confirmed that the OK lenses altered the shape of the cornea.
"This study demonstrates that OK is quite viable as a nonsurgical option for monovision that does not require wearing contact lenses during the day, although it does require 'retainer' orthokeratology contact lenses to be worn overnight," Adams said. "This possibility will certainly appeal to many people, especially since the changes in the corneal curvature of the treated eye are fully reversible."
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