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Expert Speak

Eye Donation and Corneal Graft

By Dr Mohan Rajan

How acute is the visual handicap in India? Can anything be done about it?

The incidence of blindness in India is one of the highest in the world and our country has nearly a third of the world’s blind.

A significant proportion of these persons can have their sight restored through corneal transplantation. This is a procedure in which the cornea from the eye of a donor is grafted onto the blind person.

Unfortunately, in India there is an acute shortage of donor eyes, as a result of which thousands of blind persons registered with the eye banks have to wait for years before donor eyes become available. In contrast, in Sri Lanka the number of eyes donated is ten times their national requirement.

Who can donate eyes? Can people with vision problems also donate eyes?

You too have the power to make the blind see by pledging to donate your eyes to the eye bank after your demise. The donor’s age and sex are no bar. You can also help by donating the eyes of a beloved family member who passes away.

Even the eyes of those who suffer from eye problems may be useful. In fact there are very few conditions where the eyes are not suitable for transplantation.

Virtually all religions commend eye donation and uphold it as a noble way of serving humanity and God

Should the eye (cornea) be harvested immediately after birth?

The eye is collected only after the death of the donor (within 6 hours) and not before. The process of removing the eye takes only 20 minutes and will not result in disfigurement of the face.

What is a Corneal Graft?

Cornea is like a transparent watch glass situated in front of the eye. It appears black or brown from outside due to the dark structures situated underneath. This transparent structure can become cloudy due to disease or become scarred by injury.

Corneal Grafting or Keratoplasty is carried out to replace the damaged cornea with a clear one. This clear cornea is obtained from a dead person.


What is it like afterwards?

The patient will have the operated eye patched for about a day or two after surgery. For the initial few days the patient may feel some irritation in the eye due to the fine stitches applied. For the first two or three months he or she must avoid situations where the eye might be bumped. The patient is also advised not to bend and lift heavy weights. He or she should be able to return to work after a month.

What is the period of medication and the follow up required?

Antibiotic and steroid eye drops are prescribed. These have to be used meticulously as advised by the eye doctor. Initially frequent applications of eye drops is required, which will be gradually reduced over the next few weeks.

Regular post-operative visits are very important, as there is a risk of rejection.

Some patients with rejection may have pain and redness and should seek medical advice immediately. Rejection may also present subtle symptoms or rarely no symptoms at all. Therefore at least monthly visits to the hospital are advisable during first six months and from time to time thereafter. Compliance of the patient with regard to drops and follow up visits go a long way in survival of the graft.

Dr Mohan Rajan, MBBS,DO, Dip NB, FRSH ( London).

Dr Mohan Rajan is the Medical Director, Rajan Eye Care Hospital. He has presented more than 50 Papers in National and International Ophthalmic Conferences held in Singapore, Thailand, Srilanka, Maldives, U.S.A., and U.K. He has also chaired several symposia and delivered guest lectures in International Ophthalmic Conferences.

Has performed more than 20,000 Intraocular lens implantation surgeries.

Rajan Eye Care is a full fledged Eye Hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. The ‘Rotary Rajan Eye Bank’ in association with the Rotary club of Chennai, T.Nagar is a full fledged Eye Bank is one of the leading eye banks in Chennai with facilities for cornea storage and transplantation. The Eye Bank is registered with the Eye Bank Association of India and is member of the International Federation of eye Banks. The eye bank has full fledged team and a van to collect the donor eyes. The eye bank has performed more than 100 corneal transplant surgeries.

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