The National Eye Donation Fortnight is observed in India between August 25 and September 8 every year, to raise awareness about the significant act of contributing one’s eyesight after their death, for the benefit of others. This crucial campaign was inaugurated in the year 1985, by the Ministry Of Health And Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government Of India. The chief objective of which, is to address the huge lack of eye donors, besides the increasing instances of blindness and negligible knowledge on harvesting viewing organs.
national eye donation fortnight

Currently, in its 35th year of celebrations, this 15 day-long health event aims to educate the general public about the noble deed of giving the gift of sight post their passing away. This is certainly vital, for presently, almost 70 lakh individuals in India suffer from partial blindness owing to various eye defects. Of these, more than 2 lakh persons require a corneal transplant surgery each year, in either one or both the eyes, to restore their normal, healthy vision.

However, medical experts lament about the fact that only close to 55,000 corneas are even made available annually, due to the massive dearth for eye donations. This, unfortunately, leaves over 1.5 lakh people without the ability to see, on a yearly basis, although their eye disorders can be rectified completely by surgical procedures.

These statistics were reported by the National Blindness And Visual Impairment Survey 2019, a collaboration between eye health professionals at the MoHFW and AIIMS (All India Institute Of Medical Sciences). Additionally, this document states that faults associated with the cornea are the primary reason behind blindness in people below the age of 50 and the second foremost factor of impaired vision in those older than 50 years.

With the chief goal of reducing the wide gap in demand and supply of donors of visual organs, numerous activities are conducted on the occasion of National Eye Donation Fortnight. These comprise setting up information booths in public places, educational institutions, as well as attractive posters circulated in person and online via social media, to impart a fundamental understanding on the subject of eye donation.

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These measures are carried out, to target and positively influence the majority of the population with fit vision, to come forward, volunteer and sign up to become eye donors. It must be kept in mind that, no matter how old an individual is, they can officially declare themselves as willing to donate their eyes and their ocular organs will be harvested only post passing away.

In essence, the eyes are the windows to the beautiful world outside and possessing the capability to see clearly right from birth, well into old age, is truly a blessing. It is, hence, of utmost importance, to have clarity on some key pointers, prior to becoming an eye donor. Read on, to know more.

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Eye Donation:

Who Is Considered An Ideal Candidate To Donate Eyes?

Unlike other organs such as the kidneys or liver, which require a high level of genetic, blood type and family likeness, eye donation can be done by any healthy person. The only exceptions being people with AIDS, hepatitis, blood-borne cancers like leukaemia, some viral illnesses and other communicable diseases. The donor’s age, gender and blood group do not have to be an exact match, with that of the patient in need of eyes/functional corneas i.e. the recipient. 

What About Those With Diabetes Or Hypertension?

Indeed, the incidence of lifestyle disorders has witnessed a sharp rise in recent times, affecting both men and women, be it teenagers, young adults, middle-aged or the elderly. However, people with chronic ailments such as diabetes mellitus, heart disease, hypertension, kidney problems and obesity can also vow to have their eyes harvested and donated, unhindered after they pass away. Also Read: Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Is The Entire Eye Used In A Transplant Surgery?

Although the pair of eyes, in whole, is carefully removed and harvested from the donor, after their passing away, post completing all final rites, the complete organ is not utilised in medical transplantation. Only the cornea, which is the thin, transparent layer encompassing the front segment of eyes – pupils, iris and anterior chamber, is replaced and attached to the patient with corneal damage or opaqueness.

Can A Person With Previous Eye Complications Become A Donor?

Contrary to the general belief that only those with perfect 20/20 vision can donate their eyes, doctors and ophthalmologists reiterate that even people with past visual flaws can become donors. These consist of people with optimally operating corneas, even if they wear glasses, spectacles or contact lenses, to correct for eye imperfections such as myopia and astigmatism. Also Read: Contact Lenses: Types, Advantages and Here’s How You Care For These Ocular Devices

Does The Method Of Corneal Transplant Work All The Time?

Firstly, the protocol of transplanting corneas, from a healthy eye donor to an affected patient/recipient, guarantees reinstated vision, only when the loss of sight is triggered due to shortcomings in the cornea, with the rest of the eye organelles working normally. Also, the human cornea is not supported with a specialized passage for blood supply, thereby assuring a successful transplant surgery in the majority of cases, with a very low risk of rejection.

How Is The Basic Process Of Harvesting The Eyes Done?

The eyes of the deceased individual should be harvested within 6 – 8 hours of death. After family members inform the concerned healthcare officials, a professional team from the Eye Bank immediately reaches the home of the donor or any other location the donor may be in and collects the eyes from them. Moreover, 10 ml of blood is also procured from the donor for testing. The entire process takes 15 – 20 minutes and does not disfigure the face of the donor in any way, such that funeral proceedings can be carried out smoothly and on time. Only deceased individuals can donate their eyes. Upon obtaining the eyes, the visual organs are carefully studied and then processed at the Eye Bank, following which the cornea is transplanted in the recipient within 96 hours i.e. 4 days.

How Can A Person Register For Eye Donation?

The procedure to become an eye donor is quite simple. People willing to donate their eyes after their death should fill out a pledge form available in hospitals, government agencies or online in eye bank websites with all the required details such as name, age, blood group, address and other personal specifics. The Eye Bank then registers the individual as an official eye donor and provides them with an Eye Donor Card. Upon harvesting the eyes from the donor and subsequent corneal transplant surgery of the recipient, the data of the donor and recipient are not shared with each other and are kept strictly confidential by the Eye Bank. The noble deed of donating one’s eyes is a charitable act and is done free of cost, to give the gift of sight to another individual and enhance their health and life.