This surge, however, serves as a stark reminder of the significant gap between the demand and supply of corneas in India. In this journey to bridge this divide, the National Eye Donation Fortnight plays a pivotal role, in uniting eye banks, donation centers, and training facilities across the nation.
But what lies behind the reluctance and myths surrounding eye donation in India, and how can we collectively challenge them? This reflection invites us to delve into the complexities and opportunities surrounding this crucial act of generosity.
Corneal blindness is a notable issue in India, constituting 8% of total blindness in individuals aged 50 and above, and a staggering 37.5% in those under 50. Although cataracts remain the primary cause of blindness in individuals over 50, uncorrected refractive errors are the main culprits in those under 49. Corneal transplantation, made possible through eye donation, provides an effective solution for corneal blindness (1✔ ✔Trusted Source
Burden of Corneal Blindness in India
Go to source).
Unfortunately, there is a substantial gap between the demand and supply of corneas in India, with approximately 11 lakh people awaiting corneal transplants.
Sightful Generosity: Noida’s Cornea Surge Sparks Hope
To address this shortage, the National Eye Donation Fortnight takes proactive measures by uniting eye banks, eye donation centers, and training centers from all over the country. Their goal is to enhance public awareness regarding the importance of eye donation and encourage individuals to pledge their eyes for donation after their passing.
This initiative seeks to narrow the disparity between the demand and availability of donor eyes and assist those in need of sight-saving transplants.
In the period of 2022-2023, an impressive 109 corneal donations were recorded, compared to 95 donations in the preceding year (2021-2022). Dr. Jyoti Batra, Consultant in Cataract & Cornea at ICARE Eye Hospital, Sector-26, Noida, remarked, “India has witnessed significant regional discrepancies in eye donations, leading to an evident shortfall in corneas, particularly in the NCR/Noida region.
The ICARE Eye bank, established in 2000, plays a crucial role in the retrieval, transportation, processing, and utilization of corneas to address this gap. Hospital-based corneal retrieval programs, grief counseling, public awareness campaigns, and accurate information dissemination are essential tools to boost eye donation rates. We have observed over a 12% increase in Corneal Donations Post-Pandemic.”
Eyes Wide Open to the Needs of Eye Donation
In honor of Eye Donation Fortnight, ICARE Eye Hospital has launched a series of initiatives to raise awareness and promote eye donation. These include internal awareness campaigns, partnerships with NOFAA (Noida Federation of Apartment Owners Associations), staff awareness activities, and extensive promotion on social media platforms.
Despite the transformative potential of eye donation, it remains relatively unpopular in India due to misconceptions and cultural beliefs. Common myths include doubts about the proper utilization of donated eyes and concerns about body disfigurement. Dispelling these misconceptions is a crucial aspect of the ongoing awareness campaign.
Dr. Batra further explained, “Technological advancements have significantly enhanced the success rates of corneal transplantation. Techniques such as lamellar surgery, anterior and posterior layer cornea usage in different patients, and Keratoprosthetics /Keratolimbal grafting have optimized tissue utilization. Hospital-based corneal retrieval programs, led by trained grief counselors, have played a pivotal role in motivating relatives for eye donation.”
For those interested in becoming eye donors, the eligibility criteria are inclusive. Anyone above the age of one, irrespective of gender or blood type, can donate their corneas. Even individuals who have undergone cataract surgery, have glaucoma, or retinal disorders, or wear glasses are eligible for eye donation. Corneas are only procured after a person’s passing.
- Burden of Corneal Blindness in India – (https:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3831688/)