For parents who want to correct their child’s eyesight without surgery, there are special contact lenses they can wear while they sleep that gently reshape the cornea so they can see clearly by morning.
Selene, 8, is nearsighted and wore eyeglasses for years, but last year she switched to orthokeratology, or ortho-k.
Kids put lenses them in before bed, the lenses temporarily reshape and flatten the child's cornea while they sleep, then they take them out in the morning. The slight curvature helps bend the light that enters the eye, allowing kids to see clearly all day. It also helps stop the progression of nearsightedness.
“We have kids that is playing football, doing gymnastics, swimming, and those usually do not do too well with glasses, so we’ll put them in contact lenses because of the lifestyle," optometrist Dr. Albert Pang said.
But there are risks, including the potential for eye infections if children don't practice proper hygiene and lens cleaning — even the potential for infection serious enough to cause permanent damage.
The long-term impact of ortho-k still isn't clear.
The contact lenses should be replaced once a year.
Ortho-k costs between $1,000 and $3,000 and generally isn’t covered by insurance, but it is cheaper than Lasik surgery, which is not available for children while they're still growing.
Adults can use the lenses, too. Doctors say the best candidates are people who are nearsighted with low levels of astigmatism.
Reported by Doreen Gentzler, produced by Patricia Fantis and edited by Perkins Broussard.