In April of 2022 I began using Ortho-K contact lenses to improve my vision. Like many people, my eyesight had been steadily deteriorating for many years. I started wearing glasses and contact lenses when I was 11, and now, as an adult, I had unfortunately reached the point where I needed them for everything, even just to walk down the hallway in my own home. At the time of beginning Ortho-K treatment, my regular lenses were around a -4.25 strength. This wasn't that much of a problem out of the water, but I can't wear contacts in the water during photo shoots, so I was definitely interested in a way to see better while underwater in strange environments.
Ortho-K is usually recommended for people whose prescriptions go as strong as -6, so I was a candidate. The consultation is free. The eye doctor examines your eyes to see if there are any underlying concerns that would prevent treatment from working. If you pass the exam, then there are multiple sessions to design your lenses & check your progress, and you're given a selection of daily disposable lenses to wear in the daytime while your vision gradually improves. Treatment costs around $2,000 depending on your particular needs.
Ortho-K lenses are worn at night while you sleep. It's a hard lens that reshapes your cornea and at the end of each sleep cycle, you awaken with improved vision. My vision improved rapidly the first night, and then in smaller increments thereafter. It improved so much that I didn't wear any soft lenses at all the next day on my way back to the eye doctor for my first checkup. It was the first time ever in my life that I was able to walk around NYC without lenses and be completely fine. I could read all the street signs and see clearly.
After a month or two I was back in the water for another photo shoot. I couldn't stop staring at the shoreline from our shooting spot in the spring.. I could see so far, and so clearly. I could see my belongings, and detail on the trees. Prior to this, I'd relied so much on my photographer. I used to joke he was my seeing eye dog on shoots because I couldn't see anything, especially under the water. Before my vision improved, everything under the water was a blur. I saw none of the fish or beautiful plant life or rock formations. It was only after the photos came back after the first session that I realised how magical everything was under the water, and that's what compelled me to pursue underwater modeling. Even if I couldn't actually see it until the pictures came back, I still wanted to swim through it.
Ortho-K treatments need to be consistent or your vision will continue to deteriorate. The lenses drastically slow down the natural deterioration of your eyes, so many times they're recommended for children with vision problems. Some nights the lenses are just uncomfortable and I can't keep them in more than 2 or 3 hours. I am fortunate that I seem to get a big result from shorter intervals of use, however. The general recommendation is that you wear them 7-8 hours per night, every night. By August of 2022 I had begun to develop issues with light sensitivity and problems with seeing objects closely and clearly. I could see distances quite well but my own hand in front of my face was a blur. I concluded that I was overcorrected, which is a potential side effect. At that point I took a 2 day break from the lenses while my eyes recovered. After that I began wearing them only 6 or 7 hours per night, and I skip one day per week. My vision is slightly compromised on the morning after I skip, but I always do it on a day when I don't have to go anywhere.
My vision never quite got to 20/20 but it's close. I only wear contact lenses now when I have to drive, but that's mostly a precaution, as I usually drive at night. I purchase coloured lenses from overseas companies because they don't require prescriptions, so I'm able to have a range of prescriptions to accommodate me on days when I wasn't able to wear the lenses for the full amount of time. I don't recommend buying lenses without prescriptions unless you're already an experienced lens wearer who knows her size and can reasonably diagnose variances in her vision, which I can do based on my current prescription and years of experience. Generally I wear a -1.25 prescription, which gives me great clarity for close and far distances.
If you're someone who spends a lot of time in the water, I definitely recommend being assessed for Ortho-K lenses. The experience of being underwater is far more exciting when you can see everything around you. It's also safer. You'll want to know if you're about to swim into a rock, or if there's an alligator nearby. The cost of Ortho-K is not covered by insurance as far as I know. I took the money out of my savings, and when I mentioned to my mother what I was doing, she was very interested and put in some of her own money to help. My doctor also does payment plans, so you should always inquire about that as well. I personally recommend starting a GoFundMe or similar campaign if you're a candidate and can't afford the lenses. Most people will want to help with something like improved vision. Everyone needs to see. Googling Ortho-K lenses should bring up a provider in your area.
I am happy to answer any questions about the pros and cons of Ortho-K. You can leave a comment here or message privately through the website.