Spread light in the world of darkness by donating your eyes- A noble act

What you should know about Eye Donation

Vision is one among five senses along with smell, touch, hearing and taste that God has gifted us humankind.

Vision, the most dominant of our senses, plays a critical role in every facet and stage of our lives. Loss of vision/Blindness can have major and far reaching consequences on all aspects of life individually and to their families. It affects daily personal activities like walking, reading etc., interacting with the community, school and work opportunities and the ability to access public services. Many of these consequences can, however be mitigated by timely access to quality eye care and rehabilitation.

According to WHO (World Health Organization), Blindness and vision impairment affect at least 2.2 billion people around the world. Of those, 1 billion have preventable vision impairment or one that has yet to be addressed.  According the WHO data, most common cause of blindness is Unaddressed Refractive errors (123.7 million), the Corneal blindness (4.2 million) is the fourth leading cause of blindness after, Cataract (65.3 million), Glaucoma (6.9 million) and Age-Related Macular Degeneration (10.4 million).

According to WHO, the majority of people with vision impairment are over the age of 50 years; however, vision loss can affect people of all ages. Blindness and vision loss are more prevalent with people in low- and middle-income countries where accessibility and specific government services may be lacking.

It is of immense concern that almost half of the world’s blind population resides in India. The number of people with corneal blindness in India is projected to increase to 10.6 million by 2020. As many as 3 million of these people with profound vision impairment can benefit from corneal transplantation, which is the replacement of the cornea surgically. To clear this immense backlog of patients, and to efficiently tackle the patients who are added to this group, 150,000 corneal transplants must be performed every year in India alone.

To achieve this target and to reduce the Corneal blindness, we are celebrating Eye Donation week from 25th August to 7th September. Basically, lots of activities are planned to spread awareness about eye donations. Let’s us understand some basics regarding Eye Donation.

What is Eye Donation?

Eye donation is a magnanimous act of donating one’s eyes after his/her death.

What is Eye Bank?

An Eye Bank is a non-profit charitable organization which facilitates removal of eyes after death, processing and evaluating them and finally distributing them to the hospital for the needy one.

In 1944, the first Eye Bank was started in New York City by Dr. Townley Paton and Dr. John MacLean. The first Eye Bank in India was founded in Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Chennai in 1945 by Dr. RES Muthiah and did first successful corneal transplant.

Since then, eye surgeons and citizen activist alike have campaigned extensively to generate awareness about eye donation in their local communities, with an aim to alleviate corneal blindness worldwide.

Now the Apex body, Eye Bank Association of India (EBAI) is taking care of all activities regarding, awareness about, Eye Donation and Eye Banks, to facilitate Cornea Transplant.

Different Eye Banks in Hyderabad:

  1. Ramayamma International Eye Bank, LVP Eye Institute
  2. Chiranjeevi Eye and Blood Bank
  3. Eye Bank, Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital
  4. Madhav Netra Nidhi, Pushpagiri Vitroretina Institute
  5. Eye Bank Association of India

What is corneal blindness?

Cornea is outermost/front transparent layer/part of the eye, which appears to have color. But behind this cornea, there is structure called Iris, which has a color and depending on that color, Eye has brown, black, blue or green appearance.

Cornea is transparent and has power, which helps the image to focus on the retina. If cornea loses transparency because of any reason, individual’s vision reduces or become blind.

Is there a cure for Corneal Blindness?

Corneal Blindness can be treated by removing damaged cornea and replacing with healthy cornea, either completely or partially, which is received through donation after death.

Can a living person donate their eyes?

No.

How do I pledge my eyes?

To pledge your eyes, you need to fill a form which is available in all major Hospitals and Eye Hospitals/Banks. You can access this form online also.

http://ebai.org/donator-registration/

This link will take you to Eye Bank Association of India (EBAI) and will also provide all the information you need to know.

It is very important that you communicate your decision to your family. The Eye Banks phone numbers should be saved. In the event of your death, it is the duty of family members to inform the Eye Bank within 6 hours of the death.

How can one donate eyes?

When a person pledge and has given consent for the donation of one’s eyes after death, he/she should intimate this to the family members about it. Sometimes family members decide to donate eyes or other organs after death of their beloved person. They can contact The Eye Bank available in their city.

Sprinkle water over the eye or put wet cloth over the eyes till the collection team arrives.

How does one contact the Eye Bank?

The universal phone number in India to contact The Eye Bank is 1919. It is tall free 24*7 number running across all states in India, for eye donation as well as information regarding eye banks. Or can reach local Eye Banks directly.

 What happens once the Eye Bank is informed?

Once the Eye Bank is informed of the will/wish to donate the eyes, a team of trained personnel along with an Eye Doctor and a grief counselor reach the house or hospital where the deceased has been laid to rest.

First written informed consent is taken; they might ask general history of the donor.

A well trained team works with excellent efficiency in collection of the Eye donation, to not delay any funeral arrangements. The entire process of removal of eye ball takes 10-15 minutes. The team will work in privacy to harvest the donated eyes under strict aseptic conditions, respecting grieving family’s feelings.

The area where the team harvests will be restored to its original state within minutes.

The grief counsellor will thank the family for their act of charity and issue a certificate to the donor’s family, before transporting the donor eyes.

As the patients are waiting for the cornea transplant, within 3-4 days most corneas will be utilized. The harvested cornea can be preserved for long time depending on requirement.

The identities of both the donor and the Recipient remain confidential but family does receive information once the donor corneas are utilized.

After Eye Donation How does face look?

There are two methods adopted for removal of eyes. In one method, there can be bleeding from the eye after removal but generally teams are well trained to take care of such eventualities. After removal of eyes, plastic shield or cotton plug is placed inside. Because of that, there will not be any disfigurement.

Who can donate the eyes?

Any person of any age or sex can donate their eyes. Though Eye Banks usually accept donations from donors between the ages of 2 to 70 years.

Even if the deceased has history of Diabetes, Hypertension, Asthma, Tuberculosis etc. or even was wearing glasses/spectacles or had undergone cataract surgery, He She can donate their eyes.

Someone with Lasik surgery can also donate their eyes but only part of the cornea will be used for transplantation. As one donor has ability to restore four patients’ vision if needed.

Who cannot donate their eyes?

A person with Rabies, Tetanus, AIDS, Jaundice, Cancer, Gangrene, Septicemia, Meningitis, encephalitis, Acute Leukemia, Cholera, Food poisoning or death due to drowning, cannot donate their eyes.

When it is contraindicated, the donor family is informed clearly about the fact. Eyes are not be retrieved unless the donor family is fully aware of this fact and still wishes to donate.

Covid Pandemic and Eye Donation

There are many challenges in Eye Donation activities. Number of donations have drastically reduced and affected Corneal Transplant surgeries. Let’s up hope that in short time the pandemic situation will improve and Eye Donation activities will be restored to normal.

 A sincere appeal to All

Looking at the magnitude of corneal blindness in our country, we all should come forward to pledge and donate our eyes. We should not believe or encourage any superstitions, myths and wrong believes but should try to give miraculous vision to someone by donating eyes.

There is lots of research going on to develop artificial corneas. But until this becomes reality, Eye Donation is the only way to remove darkness and give light to the life of these blind people.

The article is prepared by

Dr. Alpa Atul Poorabia, Consultant, Ophthalmologist, Apollo Spectra Hospitals, Kondapur, Hyderabad.  By having 24 years of practical work experience in various areas of Ophthalmology after completing post-graduation (M.S.-Ophthalmology) and Key areas of expertise are Cataract, Cornea and Refractive laser surgeries [Like Surface ablation/PRK, LASIK- with or without blade- Femto LASIK, ReLEx SMILE, and Phakic lens (ICL, IPCL, Eyecryl) & Keratoconus solutions]. Other areas of expertise include- General Ophthalmology, Glaucoma, Medical Retina, Pediatric Ophthalmology. She worked as an Assistant Professor in different medical colleges (M & J western Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar Medical College) in Gujarat for 7+ years.

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