Leave a Vision Behind

Dr Gazal Pushp
Blindness is a major public health problem especially in India causing severe morbidity and compromise in quality of life and productivity.
Corneal Blindness is a major contributor after cataract, refractive error and glaucoma. Corneal blindness can be treated by a procedure called Keratoplasty (Corneal transplantation) in which an eye donated after death is grafted to a patient to restore his vision.
But there is a severe shortage of donor corneal tissue in India. To bridge this disparity between the demand and supply and to encourage eye donation and burst the myths surrounding the same, NPCB conducts the National Eye Donation fortnight annually.
I believe I speak for all ophthalmologists when I say there is no greater joy in the world than being able to restore the gift of sight to a blind patient.
Keeping that in mind and in the spirit of increasing awareness and clarifying doubts I would like to highlight the following key point regarding eye donation.
What is a Cornea?
It is the clear, transparent layer in front of the black portion of the eye. It focuses light on to the retina. This is the part which is transplanted. Loss of transparency result in loss of vision.
How does cornea become opaque?
Infection, Injury, Congenital, Hereditary (dystrophic disorders), after cataract surgery, etc.
What is corneal transplantation?
A corneal transplant is an operation to replace the opaque cornea with a clear cornea obtained from a human donor.
Who can be an eye donor?
Anyone can be a donor, irrespective of age, sex, blood group or religion. People who use lenses or spectacles for refractive error or even those who have had eye surgery (cataract) can still donate their eyes.
Can patients suffering from Diabetes donate their eyes?
Patients suffering from Diabetes, hypertension, asthma, cardiac disease or even cataract can donate their eyes.
Who cannot donate their eyes?
Death due to unknown causes. Infectious diseases such as rabies, syphilis, infections hepatitis (B, C), septicaemia, AIDS, Leukaemia cannot donate.
Can next of kin consent to a donation if the deceased person has not signed an eye donation form?
Yes, the relatives of the deceased can decide on donating the eyes of their beloved one.
How quickly should cornea be removed after death?
Upto a maximum of 6-8 hours after death.
Does eye donation disfigure the face?
Will eye donation cause delay in funeral arrangements?
No, the whole procedure takes about 20 mins.
Are there any religious conflicts in eye donation?
Eye donation gives the gift of sight to others. As such, it is consistent with beliefs and attitudes of all major religions and ethical traditions.
How can I become a donor?
To become a donor, you have to register yourself with the nearest eye bank and pledge your eyes.
Why is eye donation important?
Every single donor can give vision to 2 blind people and even upto 4 blind persons (if lamellar procedures are performed).
It is a very good deed and your eyes live on even after your death.
Is there any cost to donate?
No, Organ donation is a noble deed that doesn’t involve any costs.
Can a person who is blind (due to retinal or optic nerve disease) donate his eyes?
Yes, if the cornea is not damaged or injured.
Millions of people are suffering from corneal blindness because of inadequate eye donation due to prevalent misconceptions and unawareness.
A section of our population believes that a person who donates his/her eyes will not attain salvation.
It is important to increase awareness regarding one’s social responsibility towards people with corneal blindness.
Eyesight is the most important and complex among our senses as it helps us appreciate the beauty of the world.
Let us all pledge to ‘Leave a Vision Behind’ after death.
The author is associated with (Sankara Neralaya) Chennai, Corneal Transplant Surgeon.