Making eye donation a family tradition

Making eye donation a family tradition
Highlights

Every fifth blind person in the world is an Indian. Of the 15 million blind people in India, 1.1 million suffer from corneal blindness. And 25,000 new cases are added to this backlog annually. Last year data shows that only 25,713 transplant procedures were done. In order to manage the problem, there is urgent need to perform 100,000 transplant surgeries every year.

New Delhi: Every fifth blind person in the world is an Indian. Of the 15 million blind people in India, 1.1 million suffer from corneal blindness. And 25,000 new cases are added to this backlog annually. Last year data shows that only 25,713 transplant procedures were done. In order to manage the problem, there is urgent need to perform 100,000 transplant surgeries every year.

Almost 80 per cent of blindness is avoidable -- 60 per cent of it is due to cataract which can be cured with a simple 15-minute surgery and 20 per cent is due to refractive errors, which can be treated with a simple pair of spectacles. The cornea is a transparent tissue covering the front of the eye. If it becomes cloudy from disease, injury, infection or malnutrition, vision is dramatically reduced or lost.

Corneal blindness can be treated by replacing the damaged cornea with a healthy human cornea. The cornea can be procured through eye donation. We have at hand technical skills and infrastructure for treating corneal blindness, but what is lacking is the availability of donor eye tissue.

What makes the situation worse is that a majority of the patients suffering from corneal blindness are children or young adults. All efforts at establishing quality eye banks will go waste unless eye donation is increased.

So far in India, the onus and responsibility of promoting and spreading awareness about eye donation have been resting on the medical fraternity; whereas globally, successful eye banking has been a community effort and initiative.

There are, however, certain self-perpetuating myths about eye donation which are not only false but need to be nailed. There are: a) the face/body of the dead will get disfigured if the eyes are taken out; 2) one will be born blind in the next birth; 3) one will not be able to see God in heaven. In fact, all religions endorse and support eye donation as a noble act

By Tanuja Joshi

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