What if you could go to sleep with a vision problem and wake up with a crystal-clear view of the world? A Spanish optometrist not only says this is possible, but he actually wants you to sleep in your contacts. His patented contact lenses, designed to achieve the same effect of corneal reshaping surgery, can correct vision defects like myopia (nearsightedness) and stigmatism – and now hyperopia (farsightedness) – without taking sharp instruments or lasers to your eyes.
Reshaping the cornea is a tricky business, of course, and generally requires a surgical procedure to permanently fix the problem. But Jaume Paune’s corrective lenses don’t aim to permanently reshape the corneas at all, but rather to temporarily reshape them each night while you sleep.Every cornea deformation is a bit different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to fixing the problem – hence the usual need for surgery if a patient doesn’t want to be stuck with glasses or contacts. But Paune’s system involves custom designing a pair of rigid, gas-permeable contact lenses for each patient based on his or her particular deformities, a process known as orthokeratology or ortho-k.
During the night the lenses gently reshape the cornea by pressuring the film that coats the outside of the cornea, changing its shape by about half the width of a human hair. The next morning, the lenses come out and the patient has perfect vision – at least for the duration of the day. The changes are not permanent so the patient must repeat the process each night, which could prove a tedious chore. But the farsightedness is gone, allowing the patient to get through the day without constantly squinting or groping about for his or her glasses.
The cost of the system might sway patients back toward surgery though – $1,350 up front to custom-design the lenses, plus another $550 or so each year thereafter to replace them. Then again, no one needs to put a laser to your iris either, so there’s certainly a give-and-take.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.