Eyeing overnight corneal reshaping for nearsightedness

July 22, 2010 9:03:41 PM PDT
This is not a new option, but there have been changes to the treatment and now, it is getting more attention.

It's known as overnight corneal reshaping. Even with FDA-approval, not all eye specialists are onboard.

Sam Sparella first got eyeglasses for nearsightedness at the age of 9 and they made him miserable.

"He was having a lot of problems in sports, in baseball, the goggles got all clogged up," Donna Sparella of Robbinsville, New Jersey said.

Soft contact lenses weren't much better.

Still, each year, Sam's vision got worse. At the same time, his optometrist Nicholas Despotidis began exploring corneal reshaping. It's the idea that wearing a hard contact lens overnight could gently shape the cornea toward better vision.

"You put them on at night, before you go to sleep, and then in the morning, you remove them so all your daytime activities are eyeglass and contact lens-free," Dr. Despotidis said.

Corneal reshaping, also called orthokeratology, is more than 40 years old, but it wasn't popular initially.

For one thing, the results weren't predictable.

But within the past decade, doctors have begun using the mapping devices used with Lasik surgery, to make better-fitting lenses. That success has drawn major contact lens makers, such as Paragon and Bausch & Lomb, into the market.

Sam started wearing his lenses 6 years ago. He admits they were uncomfortable at first.

"The first couple of weeks, it was hard to adjust to them, but after that, I was totally fine with it," Sam said.

Still, eye specialists are widely split on corneal reshaping.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology "doesn't approve of it, especially for children."

A specialist Action News spoke with cited concerns about lens-related infections.

However, the American Optometric Association supports cornea reshaping.

Dr. Barry Eiden, who is leading a nationwide study on it, says it "significantly slows the progression" of nearsightedness and there's been "no difference in infection rates, compared to users of conventional soft contact lenses."

Dr. Despotidis won't let a child get the lenses without thorough training in keeping them clean. His own son Nick, a student at St. Joe's University, has been wearing his for 10 years and says he's never gotten an infection. Plus, he says his vision drastically improved.

Sam also recently took the vision test for his driver's license and was told he has 20/20 vision.

So if this is something you are interested in for yourself or your child, even though it is approved, because it is controversial, you should get several opinions from both optometrists and ophthalmologists before making your decision.