Two hospitals in Coimbatore that are into outreach eye care for the poor are sensitising people to the significance of eye donation as part of observing the Eye Donation Fortnight from August 25 to September 8.

Sankara Eye Care Institutions (SECI) has lined up activities to create awareness on eye donation. The SECI said the programmes included a seminar on corneal retrieval programme for the doctors, nurses, intensive care unit and paramedical staff of leading multi-specialty hospitals in Coimbatore. Managing trustee R.V. Ramani said in a release “The campaign to create awareness on eye donation among the hospital staff has helped. Sankara has over the last year received eyes of a few youngsters who died in accidents. Due to the hospital staffs’ motivation, the parents were able to donate the eyes of the youngsters. In most of the cases, the family tend to forget whether the deceased member had pledged his eyes. A reminder by the hospital medical team could motivate the family to donate the eyes.”

“It is important to create the awareness that donating the eyes of the deceased is a simple procedure. The process takes no longer than 20 minutes and there is no disfigurement caused to the body of the deceased as is often feared. A person of any age can donate eyes, even if they have been known to have a medical history such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma or tuberculosis. Even spectacle wearers, who may have undergone cataract surgeries or lasik treatments, can donate eyes,” he said.

SECI is planning to conduct awareness programmes in senior citizen homes, Ram Aravind Home for aged, Bharatha Annai Illam, and inspire the senior citizens to pledge their eyes.

Aravind Eye Hospital said corneal blindness was the second most common cause of blindness in India after cataract. More than 20 lakh Indians were affected and 30,000 new cases came up every year.

Almost 60 per cent of these cases were young adults and children. Corneal blindness could be treated only by corneal transplantation (with donated eyes).

Children born with hazy corneas or those having scarred corneas due to infection and trauma could regain vision after surgery. It is the most successful transplant surgery with a success rate of more than 90 per cent. A single donor could give vision to two persons. Under transplant guidelines, a recipient would get only one eye as the other should be given to one more person to regain vision. But, the demand-supply gap was yet to be narrowed in India. As against the requirement of two lakh corneas a year, only 27,000 were collected, the hospital said in a release. Even out of these corneas, only 40 per cent to 50 per cent were fit for transplantation. This is mainly because of delay in informing the eye banks. The earlier the eyes are procured after death the better their quality (best within 6 hours).

Cornea retrieval in hospitals must be popularised, as better quality of corneas would be assured if these were harvested in hospitals.

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