Updated: October 14, 2020 11:40:08 am
In India, there is an ever-growing and serious requirement of eye donations. But along with it, there is also little information out there on the actual process of it, the pros and cons, and the myths and facts. Numerous reports suggest that there are an estimated 15 million people in India who are blind, and 30 million who are visually challenged. Dr Harshwardhan Ghorpade, cornea, cataract and refractive surgeon, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi — a Fortis Network Hospital, says that in India, promoting and spreading awareness about eye donation is seldom the onus of the community, due to multiple myths surrounding the cause; it then becomes the duty of doctors, caregivers and hospitals to build much-needed awareness.
Dr Ghorpade says that if the cornea — a transparent tissue present in the front of the eye — develops a cloudy form, either due to an injury, disease or even malnutrition, a person experiences impaired vision or sometimes complete loss of vision. This condition of corneal blindness can be fixed by replacing the damaged cornea with a healthy human cornea, procured through the donation of eyes.
And while it is an honourable thing to give someone the gift of sight, there are many myths and misconceptions that cloud a person’s judgement and prevent them from vouching to donate their eyes.
The doctor dispels some of these common myths here:
Myth 1: Eye donation can cause disfigurement of the face
Fact: Eye donation does not cause disfiguration to the face. During this procedure, the corneas are removed and replaced with a shell, and when the eyes are closed, it appears normal.
Myth 2: One’s vision may be affected in the next birth if they donate eyes in this birth
Fact: Nobody is sure if there even is a next birth. This is an absolute myth, but one of the biggest reasons for the drop in eye donation numbers.
Myth 3: A person can donate their eyes when they are alive
Fact: While the kidneys or a part of the liver may be donated from a live person to another, eye donation is done only after death. You may pledge to donate your eyes while you are alive, and encourage your family in partnering you for this cause.
Myth 4: Eye donations can help all blind people
Fact: Only individuals with opacity of the corneas can benefit, while others with retina or optic nerve related blindness do not benefit from eye donation.
Myth 5: If you suffer from a retinal issue or have had an eye surgery, you cannot be a donor
Fact: Every person whether young or old, of any blood group, and regardless of whether they have undergone a surgery or are with retinal or optic nerve issues, can donate their eyes.
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Myth 6: Eyes can be donated any time after death
Fact: Eye collection from a donor needs to be done within 6 hours of death. The body of the donor needs to be placed in a cold environment, with fans switched off, eyes closed, moist cotton placed on the eyes and two pillows under the head. The local eye collection center (hospital) or the eye bank needs time to be contacted.
Also, if the cause of death is septicemia, HIV, rabies, etc., the eyes would be used for research and development rather than for donating to a blind recipient.
Myth 7: The eyes are donated and sold to a person waiting for a transplant
Fact: Selling and buying of any human organ is illegal and is a punishable offence as per law; it is a noble cause, and is regulated by authorised bodies.
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