By Dr. H.R. Manikarnika, Senior Eye Specialist
The 38th National Eye Donation Fortnight is held from Aug. 25 to Sept. 8, 2023 to promote eye donation and create awareness. When we close our eyes even for a minute the whole world becomes dark. Imagine a blind person who cannot see.
In India, there are about 15 million blind, out of which 6-8 million are cornea blind. According to another statistics from 2000-2020, it says that about 1.5% of population are blind.
What is eye donation?
Eyes are collected, preserved and transplanted to needy persons. The eyes are collected only after the death of the person, never during life time.
Can we cure any type of blindness with eye donation?
No, except for corneal blindness, for which it is useful. Cornea is the front transparent portion of the eye through which light penetrates the eyes.
Who can donate eyes?
Any person after death can donate eyes. But following are contra indications: Persons suffering from Rabies, AIDS, Central Nervous System diseases, Cancer, Encephalitis etc. Persons suffering from diabetes, heart attack and wearing spectacles are not contra indications.
What is the procedure to donate eyes?
Family members should give their consent. Even a minor refusal, eyes are not collected because this is purely a voluntary gesture. Following things have to be done: a) Close the eyes with lids, put cold pack over the eyes or forehead. If available put antibiotic eye drops to both eyes and then close. b) Keep the head in a bit elevated position, call the eye bank persons. Eyes have to be collected within 6 hours and transplanted within 24 hours. c) Put off the fan.
Can a person, who has not registered, donate eyes?
Definitely the authorised custodian of the dead body is the final authority for donation. Suppose the deceased has registered and authorised custodian is not willing, eyes will not be taken. If the deceased was not willing and the authorised custodian is willing, eyes are collected.
Will eye bank persons reveal for whom it is transplanted?
No, it will not be revealed.
Is there any financial benefit for the donors family?
No, there is no financial benefit; you will get only spiritual satisfaction, no monetary benefit.
What is corneal blindness?
Cornea is the front transparent portion of eyes through which light rays penetrates, reaches retina and the person is able to perceive the sight. If cornea turns opaque, light cannot pass through and the person cannot see. This is corneal blindness. Cornea blind patients are registered in eye bank and if a donation is received, the deserving person is called and arranged for corneal transplantation. This is called Keratoplasty.
How can cornea blindness be prevented?
Causes of cornea blindness are: 1. Injuries to cornea; 2. ‘Vitamin A’ deficiency – there will be bitot spots and if neglected cornea melts like snow and the person becomes blind; 3. Cornea infection; 4. Corneal dystrophy (congenital corneal diseases)
Corneal injury has to be prevented. For example: Crackers in Deepavali festival and in agricultural activities. If it happens even a trivial injury should be considered as emergency and he has to be taken to an Eye Specialist. Vitamin A deficiency can be prevented by taking plenty of green leafy vegetables, milk, egg and fruits. They must be detected early and treated. Now, the incidence of Vitamin A deficiency is reduced because Government is administering Vitamin A to kids below 5. In some cases marriage among relatives causes corneal blindness. Not all cases of marriages among blood relatives will cause this.
What is Eye Bank? How it functions?
Eye Bank is a part of Eye Department where the donated eyes are collected, preserved and distributed to corneal surgeons. Eye Bank has the following staff: 1) Eye Bank Officer; 2) Staff Nurse; 3) Group D; 4) Vehicle and ready driver.
There is no fixed time for death, as it can occur anytime of the day. So the Eye Bank staff must be ready 24 hours to receive the call and collect the eyes. Eyes once donated should be received at any cost.
The usefulness of cornea depends on its quality. It is graded 1 to 4. 1-2 corneal grade are useful for transplantation. The other 2 are for non-optical purposes which the Cornea Surgeon will decide. Message: Donate eyes when somebody dies, don’t succumb to superstitions.