Purpose: To examine the morphological and biometric corneal changes produced over periods of 15 days and 1 month after overnight orthokeratology (OK).
Methods: Prospective, single-center, longitudinal trial. Twenty-seven right eyes of 27 subjects (group 1) with low to moderate myopia wore OK lenses for 1 month. Ten right eyes of 10 subjects (group 2) with emmetropia to low myopia who did not wear any type of contact lens served as controls. Corneal morphometric measurements were obtained in vivo using a confocal microscope to examine the central and midperipheral cornea. Thickness measurements in the peripheral cornea were obtained by optical coherence tomography. Changes in visual acuity, refractive error, and corneal topography were also analyzed.
Results: No significant changes in either endothelial cell or stromal cell density were observed after 1 month of OK. Basal epithelial cells were, however, significantly reduced (P < 0.01), and epithelial wing and superficial cells showed enhanced visibility (P < 0.05). Superficial cells increased in height and width, the width increase after 1 month being significant (P < 0.01). Epithelial thickness was significantly reduced in the central cornea and 2 mm around the center. Corneal pachymetry increased significantly in the band from 5 to 10 mm from the corneal apex (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: OK lenses for myopia induce significant structural and optical changes particularly in the central epithelium after 15 days or 1 month of wear. The central corneal epithelium responds to OK wear by undergoing significant epithelial cell shape and size alterations with no effects, however, on the cells of the corneal endothelium or the corneal stroma. Peripheral corneal thickness increased with respect to baseline values. These findings suggest that the corneal epithelium is the principal structure affected by the mechanical forces exerted by the OK lenses.