25th August to 8th September is observed as National Eye Donation Fortnight every year in India. The aim is to raise awareness about the importance of eye donation among the public and motivate them to pledge their eyes for donation after death.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every five seconds one person loses their eyesight. Currently, there are around 45 million blind people in the world and this count increases by 1–2 millions every year. Corneal blindness and visual impairment caused due to damage to the cornea is the second most common cause of blindness. In India, around 6.8 million people suffer from vision loss due to corneal diseases. It is estimated that by 2020, approximately 10.6 million cases of blindness will be reported in the nation. And one of the key treatment options to deal with corneal blindness is corneal transplant which can be attained by eye donation.
So to help people understand the need of eye donation and help them pledge for eye donation, we have shed light on some of the common questions about donating the eyes that everyone needs to know.
7 FAQs on Eye Donation Answered!
According to the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), around 1,20,000 people are affected due to corneal blindness. To deal with corneal blindness, around 2,50,000 corneas are needed per year but only 25,000 corneas as donated per year. In spite of the awareness about eye donation, there is a significant shortage in the number of donor corneas available. Moreover, there is a waiting period of more than 6 months for people planning to undergo corneal transplantation.
1. What is eye donation?
Eye donation, as the name suggests, is the process of donating one’s eyes after his/her death. This is a noble act which can help people suffering from corneal blindness. It is a condition that causes loss of vision due to damage to the cornea, a tissue that covers the front of the eye. The eyes of a single donated person can provide vision to two people suffering from corneal blindness.
2. Who can donate eyes?
Everyone can be a donor, irrespective of their age, caste, creed, sex, religion or blood group. Even people who suffer from long sightedness or short sightedness and wear glasses or use contact lens can also become an eye donor. People who have undergone an eye surgery can also pledge for eye donation. However, it is important to screen a donor’s medical history. Conditions such as HIV positive status or AIDS, severe infectious problems such as sepsis or hepatitis that is active (render healthcare persons involved in tissue handling) disallow eye donation.
3. I am a diabetic, can I still donate my eyes?
Only the advanced stages of diabetes that require insulin prevent a patient from being a donor. Patients who have diet-controlled diabetes may still be eye donors. Patients who have severe forms of diabetes should refrain from donating their eyes. People with hypertension, asthma and heart disease can donate their eyes. Also, those with cataract can pledge for eye donation. However, those who suffer from communicable diseases cannot donate their eyes.
4. How can I become a donor?
Ideally, a person who wants to become a donor is required to register online for eye donation or get in touch with an eye bank. The online registration requires you to fill the pledge form and contact the nearest eye bank to submit the form. Alternatively, you can go to the nearest eye bank and do the formalities to get registered. Once registered, you will receive an eye donor card. Do inform your family members about your pledge to donate the eyes for a safe process.
5. How can I donate my eyes?
If you wish to donate eyes after death, then do inform your family about your wish. This is because, if a person has not signed an eye donation form, then the kin of the deceased person can give consent for the donation. All they have to do is inform the officials of an eye bank or organ donation centre and sign the donor form to complete the process. Ideally, the eyes must be removed within 4-6 hours after death. So it is important to inform the officials well within time.
6. Is it necessary to take the donor to the hospital after death for eye donation?
No, all you have to do is contact the nearest eye bank who will send the team to the place of demise (house or hospital) to perform the procedure. The entire procedure will take no more than 20-30 minutes so it won’t cause any delay in the funeral arrangements. Till the team arrives, the family should do the following:
– Close the eyes of the deceased/donor to prevent drying of the eyes.
– Switch off the fan or AC as air can cause the eyes to become dry.
– Place a pillow underneath the head to raise it slightly.
– Contact the nearest eye bank at the earliest.
7. Does eye donation disfigure the face?
It is a common misconception that eye donation disfigures the face. In fact, this is the reason why few religions do not believe in organ donation. However, the reality is that removal of cornea does not cause any disfigurement of the face. Also, after the eyeball is removed, a transparent eye cap is placed in the eye. It won’t cause any delay in the funeral arrangement as the entire procedure takes only 15- 20 minutes.
Remember eye donation can be pledged at any age but the donation is carried out only after the donor’s demise. Becoming an eye donor can help you save two lives. So do pledge to become an eye donor today and save lives!
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)
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