Have you thought about donating your eyes? If not, you may want to consider signing up to help the plight of the 300 odd people in Puducherry who are waiting for corneal transplants.

Unfortunately, donation alone is not the issue ophthalmologists of Puducherry face. Often, even when patients agree to donate their eyes, as information does not travel fast enough, close to 70 per cent of the eyes donated are unusable.

In order to create awareness on eye donation and the need to alert the hospital as soon as possible, Aravind Eye Hospital is celebrating Eye Donation Fortnight which was kicked off with a rally at their hospital on Monday.

According to statistics available with Aravind Eye Hospital, a total of 4,572 eyes have been collected from various donors in the past 10 years (2003 to 2013) but only 1,401 have been utilised. However, on the positive side, the number of eye donations made in the hospital have gone up almost nine-fold, with 452 eyes being collected in 2013 so far, as opposed to only 52 eyes collected in 2003. In 2012, a total of 781 eyes were collected and in 2011 the hospital collected 990 eyes from various donors.

These figures indicate that the awareness has gone up, but on an average only around 170 of these eyes have been utilised every year since 2009.

There are three hospitals that perform corneal transplants in Puducherry – JIPMER, Aravind Eye Hospital and Vaasan Eye care. Every year, close to 300 patients receive eyes from donors, but, unfortunately, the wait list in all the hospitals put together is also close to 300, Dr. Tiruvengada Krishna of Aravind Eye Hospital said.

“Only around 30 per cent of the eyes that are donated can be utilised, since the eyes need to be harvested within six hours of the death of the patient. In most cases, however, the hospital is alerted after six hours and then the eyes, even if they are donated become useless,” he said.

The most common cause for people requiring cornea transplants is injury to the cornea, especially among agricultural labourers. When these labourers receive eye injuries from paddy husks or sugarcane thorns, the result is a fungal infection to the eye. In most cases, the patients take two to three days to report to the hospital, which leads to the aggravation of the injury. It is these cases that need the donated eyes the most, he said.

Other reasons for corneal transplantations are congenital diseases like keratocornis and corneal distrophies.

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