Night-time contact lenses worn only while sleeping are to be tested in Sydney, to see whether they can prevent short-sightedness in children and promotes the formation of healthy eye shapes while they sleep.
The specially designed lenses have already proved successful in the temporary correction of myopia (near nearsightedness) in adults, but overseas research suggests they could halt the development of myopia in the 25 per cent of children who suffer from the condition, in which the eyeball is too long.
Helen Swarbrick, associate professor at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of NSW, said the key was to apply the lenses at the first hint of myopia to stop it in its tracks by gently changing the shape of the cornea, or front surface of the eye, as the child’s eyes continued to develop.
Known as orthokeratology therapy, the lenses work in adults by in effect flattening the cornea while they sleep, giving them corrected vision during the day after the lenses are removed. However, this requires continued use of the lenses or the shape, and therefore vision, reverts.
We’re certainly able, very predictably, to correct low degrees of short-sightedness [in adults]. The big news here is that there’s growing evidence that in actual fact if you apply this technology in children you may be able to slow down or prevent the development of short-sightedness,” said Dr Swarbrick, who has been researching the effects of the lenses on adults for 10 years.
Others in the optometry industry, on the other hand, are cautiously optimistic about the new findings but are calling for further testing to be carried out before pronouncing any kind of miracle cure for myopia. According to specialist Gordon Ilett from the UK’s Association of Optometrists,
It is emerging technology and there is lots of anecdotal evidence about how brilliant it is, but really we need large population studies to prove efficacy.”