Less than 15,000 eyes donated every yr, says specialist

Preventable blindness could be wiped out of the country if just one per cent of the population comes forward to pledge its eyes.

Though as many as 80 lakh blind people currently live in India, less than 15,000 eyes, or corneas, are donated each year in the entire nation, said an eye specialist from Dr Agarwal's Eye Hospital.  

Observing the National Eye Donation fortnight here on Thursday, Dr Raghu Nagaraju, senior consultant, cornea and refractive surgery at the hospital, said: "A small country like Sri Lanka harvests more cornea and sends the surplus to other nations."

But in India, Dr Nagaraju said, the supply could not meet even 10% of the demand. "Myths continue to persist over eye donation," he regrets.

Many still believe that the dead would not attain salvation if organs are donated. "This is sad because at least 15 lakh people are currently waiting for corneal transplants, while only about 7,000 to 8,000 transplants take place annually," he said, adding that the country needs a big push to increase eye donations.

Regional head of medical services and director of the hospital Dr Amod Nayak said the government trains its focus on promoting cataract surgery rather than corneal transplants.

"Even though funds are allotted for corneal blindness in the Government of India's National Programme for Control of Blindness, the utilisation of funds and execution of the project are not satisfactory," Dr Nayak said.  

Absence of eye bank units means cornea harvesting in the state's tier 2 and 3 cities and rural areas is less compared to larger cities like Bengaluru and Mysuru.

"The government should ensure that at least one corneal specialised surgeon is available at district hospitals. More ophthalmologists are needed in tier 2 and 3 cities, additionally, infrastructure required for corneal transplantation must be created in government-run medical colleges," Dr Nayak said.

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Less than 15,000 eyes donated every yr, says specialist

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