Eye treatment changing lives

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By Jaden McLeod

The first time Maia Trevelyan realised she had issues with her sight, she was sitting in her classroom.

"At school, I couldn't see what was on the whiteboard, and all my friends could. I thought it was abnormal."

Maia is one of millions worldwide who suffer with poor eyesight.

She didn't want to wear glasses so she and her mother, Vicki, asked their local GP if there was an alternative treatment.

"He knew of a guy in Tauranga that was treating children with myopia; and he had methods to halt progression, or slow it down at least," says Vicki.

It was then they found optometrist, Alex Petty, who runs one of two practices in the Bay of Plenty which specialises in OrthoK treatment.

"Orthokeratology or OrthoK as it is colloquially-known, is a treatment that we use a lot for young short-sighted patients. It's a treatment where basically a contact lens is designed to wear only overnight. When patients take it out as soon as they wake up, they can see throughout the day."

It's all down to the lens reshaping the cornea during sleep. Mr Petty says it's dynamic because it can limit the risk of developing more severe eye problems later in life.

Research predicts that by 2050, half the world's population could experience issues with their sight.

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"Many people aren't aware that short-sightedness is a risk for other ocular disease occurring later in life. Conditions like retinal detachment, glaucoma, myopic maculopathy and cataracts all become more likely, the more short sighted we are."

Mr Petty is one of three Kiwi fellows of the International Academy of Orthokeratology.

He says it isn't just children who can reap the rewards of the treatment - adults can improve their sight as well.

Maia's already seeing the results of her nightly treatment.

"I can see what's on the whiteboard. If I look outside, I can see clearly what's in the distance - it's a lot sharper. It's kind of a miracle really. It happened so fast, and all you have to do is sleep with some contacts in your eyes, which doesn't really bother me."

Mrs Long says she wasn't aware of the treatment at all, but is so glad her daughter is able to wake up in the morning with the gift of sight.

OrthoK is available to patients nationwide, through specialist treatment.

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