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Could you imagine a world of complete darkness? We use our eyes for almost all our daily functions, and a world without vision is a grim prospect. In India, there are 3.5 million blind people out of the world total of 45 million. And the scary part of this statistic is that a large portion of these people, suffer from completely preventable and repairable eye diseases. The dismal fact that, we as a nation, require about 1,50,000 corneas every year, we have only about 35,000 corneas that are donated*.
Starting with the basics, the cornea is the clear part at the front of the eye. It is the main structure that allows rays of light to pass into the eye, at an angle that helps a person see. It is a very delicate structure, which is only about 0.5 to 0.6 mm thick. Any damage to it can cause a decrease in vision or complete corneal blindness. In such cases a corneal transplantation is the only way to help restore vision.
We spoke to Dr Vandana Jain an ophthalmologist about the issue. Here are a few things you should know about the procedure:
Dr Vandana says, ‘Corneal transplantation is a procedure where the part of the cornea which is damaged is removed and replaced with one from the donor. In case the entire cornea is defective, a doctor will then replace it entirely with a donor cornea.’
‘Here is when cornea donation comes into play. Corneas that are used for transplantation are usually taken from people who’ve pledged their eyes before their death. ‘ Dr Jain adds that when a person dies, doctors have a window of about four to six hours to harvest and transplant the organ. This time period is crucial for the proper transplantation and the functioning of the cornea. She added,‘The beauty of eye donation is that when one person dies, and allows their corneas to be donated. They are essentially giving light to two different people.’
In India the number of eye donations are few and far between. Even though we are the world’s second most populous country, we suffer from the maximum shortage of corneas. There are numerous reasons for this, the most common being the myths surrounding corneal transplantation.
We asked Dr Jain about the most common myths she hears about in her daily practice. She said, ‘Most commonly people believe that if a person donates their cornea after their death, they will be born blind in their next life. This is obviously not true. What you need to remember is that when one person dies, and donates his/her cornea, they are giving vision to two people.’
‘The second most common reason, is that if the person has a particular disease, they cannot donate their cornea. While this is not entirely true, there are a few diseases that might forbid you from donating. Despite that fact, donated corneas can be used for research and help scientific progress in the country.’
Here are few of the diseases with which could stop you from donating:
- If a person suffers from an infectious disease such as HIV, syphilis or septicaemia
- If a person dies due to carcinoma or cancer
- Death due to unknown causes
- If you suffer from corneal disease
Another hurdle most doctors suffer, are the rules that govern cornea donation. There is a law that says that a person who is donating their cornea, should get consent from ‘the next of kin’. By this what they mean is that the donor’s close family like their husband, wife, parents or children have to agree to allow the doctors to harvest the cornea. In several cases even though a patient has pledged their corneas, the family does not allow its harvest after their death. This leads to loss in precious time when it comes to transplantation. Dr Vandana Jain says, ‘If you decide to donate your cornea, make your wishes known to your family so that when the time comes, they do not let their own prejudices come in the way of your final wishes.’ Lastly, remember that vision is the greatest gift you can give someone. Donate your eyes and give someone light. To know more about how you can pledge your corneas, click here
*Statistic source: www.netradaan.com
Published: April 29, 2013 3:34 pm | Updated:March 1, 2015 4:01 pm