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Give the Gift of Sight: How You Can Become a Cornea Donor

Elaine (1)When most people think of organ and tissue donation, they consider the
donation of major organs, such as the heart, kidneys or liver, and often
don’t realize the impact tissue donation — such as cornea donation
— can have on improving life for the recipient.

Likewise, when many people consider eye surgery, they think of LASIK and other
vision surgery to repair refractive errors or restore vision loss due to cataracts.

Cornea transplant can restore vision when the eye is too damaged or diseased
to treat with other vision surgeries. The cornea is the clear, outermost
layer of the eye. When it becomes scarred, clouded or damaged due to disease,
blurred vision and even blindness may occur. With a corneal transplant,
vision can be restored, improving quality of life for the recipient. Cornea
donation is a sight-giving gift.

According to the Eye Bank Association of America, more than 110,000 cornea
donations were reported in the U.S. in 2010, and more than 42,500 corneal
transplants were performed in the U.S. Many U.S. eye banks also provide
donated eye tissue for transplant in other countries, where corneal blindness
is more prevalent, HIV and other transmittable disease run rampant, or
where culture and religious restrictions prevent tissue donation.

Facts and information about the cornea and corneal disease from the National
Eye Institute.

A cornea transplant success story

Elaine suffered from keratoconus, a progressive thinning of the cornea, which eventually resulted in her
total loss of vision. She was unable to drive or perform daily tasks and
activities. Her blindness left Elaine with little hope, and she suffered
from depression. Several years ago, Elaine was the recipient of a cornea
transplant. Since her surgery, her vision has been restored. She drivers
license was reinstated, and she is now able to perform the daily tasks
and favorite activities corneal blindness had taken away from her, including
quilting. (Source: Kansas Eye Bank)

Other parts of the eye can be donated for transplant or graft, including
the sclera and the conjunctiva. Individuals who have suffered severe burns
to the whites of their eyes may undergo a graft to repair the damaged
tissue. The whole globe of the eye can also be donated to research into eye conditions such as
glaucoma, retinal disease,
diabetic retinopathy,
macular degeneration and other sight disorders. Research made possible by eye donation advances
the discovery of causes and effects of eye conditions, leading to development
of new treatments and cures.

How to become an eye donor

  • Enroll in the online donor registry by visiting the Donate Life website
    in your state.
  • Designate that you wish you be an organ and tissue donor when you apply
    for your drivers license. If you have a current license that does not
    contain the donation symbol, take a moment to fill out the donor information
    on the back of your license. Be sure to write directly on the plastic.
  • Inform your family and friends of your wishes to become a donor. This is
    the most important step in becoming an organ and tissue donor.

Posted in: Cornea Donation, Eye Health, Eye Surgery

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