Adults and Children Try Alternative to Eye Surgery - NBC 6 South Florida

Adults and Children Try Alternative to Eye Surgery

Ortho-K is a non-invasive alternative to surgery

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    Adults and Children Try Alternative to Eye Surgery

    Ortho-K is a non-invasive alternative to surgery. (Published Monday, Feb. 6, 2012)

    Millions of Americans need glasses or contacts to help them see clearly, and while many get laser eye surgery to correct their vision, not everyone can do so, including kids.

    But state-of-the-art technology offers non-invasive alternative to surgery. Ortho-K looks like contact lenses, but they are a bit smaller than soft ones, more breathable than hard ones.

    But the biggest difference is they are worn while sleeping.

    "The central part of the lense reshapes the cornea just like surgery does. So if you’re flattening the central part of the cornea you see better, said Dr. David Roth, who specializes in Ortho-K, or Orthokeratology.

    The process has been around since the 1960s. The patient pops Ortho-K contacts in before be and pops them out in the morning.

    Roth said Ortho-K contact lenses are a great alternative for people who don't qualify for laser eye surgery. Or for those who do qualify but don't really want surgery. They're also best for children, who benefit most from their stabilizing power.

    "It also stops the eyes from getting worse," said Roth. "There’s proof with children. There’s no actual proof with adults. But with most of my adults their vision really doesn’t get any worse either."

    "With kid’s vision, if they start out at a low prescription it could triple by the time they’re 18," said Roth. "And the sad thing is it could’ve halted it."

    Snow Wang, 13, and her 16-year old brother Kevin have bad eyesight. They can't read or make out objects far away, and it's getting worse, fast.

    Their mother Ning Wang heard about Ortho-K and made an appointment.  

    "I’ve talked to all the doctors before and they’ve all told me the only thing we can do is wait until they reach their mature age at 18 or 20 so we can get laser eye surgery to correct their vision," she said. "I just worry before they reach their mature age they may, their vision will be too bad."

    Rebekah Wax, 8, switched to Ortho-K contacts when she was 6 years old.

    "I thought it was super great cause I always wanted glasses and it turned out i didn’t really want it anymore.  Then I changed to contacts and I thought that was better than glasses," she said.

    Her mother, Patricia Estremadoyro, has been wearing glasses since she was a little girl, too. Now she also wears Ortho-K lenses.

    "I had to wear like these heavy, thick glasses.  So then i started with the glasses for a long, long time.  So this is a salvation for me," she said.

    Over the years, Orthokeratology has faced some complications and controversies, but advanced technology and state-of-the-art equipment and materials, but 10 years ago the FDA approved them for overnight wear.

    The lenses have been slow to catch on unlike laser eye surgery. An estimated eight to 12 million Americans have undergone Lasik since the FDA approved It in 1995.  

    Roth said it’s a matter of educating the public…letting them know a less invasive, equally effective option is available.  

    "They don’t believe it until they actually do it, and to them it’s almost magical. It’s almost like instant vision. It’s pretty powerful," Roth said.

    Insurance doesn’t cover Ortho-K lenses, and starting at $1,900 they do cost more than regular contacts you wear during the day.