DENVER — If Lasik surgery isn’t for you, a hard contact lens that patients wear at night to reshape their eyes and give 20/20 vision might be.
Cornea refractive therapy requires patients to wear a hard contact while sleeping at night.
Patients take the contacts out in the morning and can see without glasses or other contacts, according to Dr. Jennifer Redmond of Highline Vision Center in Aurora, Colorado.
"It's actually fairly simple. It's been around since the 1960s," she said, of the technology.
She has worn the contacts for 20 years.
"It just gently reshapes the eye with gentle pressure while you're sleeping," Redmond said. "The cornea is flattened and as that flattening happens, it focuses the light on the retina to bring clarity."
Cornea refractive therapy, also called corneal refractive therapy, involves no surgery, little if any pain and it's been approved by the FDA, Redmond said.
"You put them on when you go to bed and you take them off in the morning. So it's exactly the opposite of typical soft contacts and you wear them every night," Redmond said.
The contacts don't just reshape, you can see at night when wearing them too.
The technology works well for people who are nearsighted. Nearsighted patients can see well up close.
It doesn't work as well for people who are significantly farsighted, though a little farsightedness can be treated, Redmond said.
If you're eyes get worse each year, cornea refractive therapy can slow down the speed at which your eyes worsen.
If a patient stops wearing the contacts, he or she will have trouble seeing again.
"It's reversible when you stop wearing thee lenses then the effect goes away after several days, to weeks, it still leaves you to be a candidate for Lasik down the road," Redmond said. "If you don’t sleep enough you can have a blurry day where you don’t' see as well at the end of the day. But typically, if you're getting six hours of sleep or more a night, you'll be fine."
Gymnastics is a huge part of teen Elli Brownfield's life. She practices each day for 5 hours. Glasses and traditional contacts aren’t easy to wear.
"Let's say you are doing beam and your contact popped out. It's a distraction if your glasses fall off," Elli Brownfield said.
Remembering to wear them after a busy day has been tough on occasion.
"There are some nights where if you are busy you just forget to put them in,” she said. “You can't see the next day."
Overall, Brownfield says she’s happy with the contacts.
The fitting for these special types of lenses and a first set of contacts costs about $1,500 to $2,000 dollars. Patients often get a backup pair of lenses also.
Patients need a new pair of lenses about once a year.
Insurance covers some or all of the cost of the replacement lenses.