If you rely on glasses or contact lenses to improve your vision, you're already familiar with the expense, inconvenience, and other drawbacks they present. For these reasons, millions of people have turned to elective procedures such as corneal refractive therapy (CRT) to restore their vision. CRT is a non-surgical, non-permanent method of improving visual function through the use of special overnight lenses that gradually reshape the corneas.

Getting Started

If you are a candidate for CRT, your doctor will first measure the refraction of your eye to determine the amount of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism you have. He will then use an instrument called a corneal topographer to map the shape of the surface of your eyes. Using this map and your prescription, he will create the contacts that will be used to reshape your corneas.

Your doctor will determine exactly how often and how long you will need to wear the lenses. Initially, most people need to wear them for about eight hours a day to improve their vision to desired levels, and many wear them while they sleep. In time, it usually becomes necessary to wear them only three days a week to keep the cornea in the necessary shape for clear vision.

Most people notice significant improvement within the first few days of treatment, with optimum vision achieved within 10 to 14 days. Although the results are not permanent, most patients find that the improved vision lasts all day. The contacts have to be put in again at night for results to be seen the next day.


Why get CRT instead of LASIK or other vision-correcting surgeries? First, it helps to understand the differences between the two. CRT is a reversible, temporary solution for improving your eyesight, while LASIK is permanent. CRT is a non-invasive procedure that requires only the use of special lenses to reshape the cornea. LASIK is a surgical procedure that uses a laser to permanently change the shape of the cornea, which may make it both more desirable and riskier to potential patients.

CRT is particularly appealing to those who are apprehensive about surgery or too young to undergo a procedure like LASIK but are still open to the idea of taking steps to eliminate the need for contacts or glasses.

How It Works

People who have myopia (the clinical term for nearsightness) have blurry vision due to light from a faraway object focusing in front of their retinas. Traditional contact lenses correct vision by altering the light's direction before it hits the eye, allowing the image to focus on the retina.

CRT lenses actually alter the eye's power, allowing the light to be focused on the retina without the use of traditional lenses. Not only can CRT temporarily eliminate the need for glasses or traditional contact lenses; it can also halt or slow down the progression of visual deterioration.

The FDA has approved CRT for people with up to six diopters of myopia (-6.00 prescription) or -1.75 diopters of astigmatism, but most doctors believe that those who benefit most from this procedure have a prescription of -4.00 or less. As long as the eyes are healthy, CRT can be performed on individuals of any age.

Understanding the Costs

The cost of CRT can be high, with eye care practitioners charging an average of $800 to $1,500 for the initial fitting and lenses, plus $100 to $200 for additional lenses. This is significantly less, however, than the $4,000 to $6,000 that it costs to undergo LASIK. Although CRT is covered by some vision health-care plans, companies such as CapitalOne offer financing for those who do not have adequate vision coverage or have no coverage at all.