'Myths preventing people from donating eyes'

'Myths preventing people from donating eyes'

The number of blind people in the country has touched a whopping 15 million. Surgical interventions, however, reach only a small percentage of the affected population.

Myths about eye donation and surgery are major hurdles for eye donation and access to treatment for the poor. For instance, there are 46 lakh corneal blind people in India, in contrast to a measly 16,000 corneal surgeries performed in the country.

In order to create awareness about eye donation and to mark the 27th National Eye Donation Fortnight, the Lions International Eye Bank held an eye camp at Lalbagh on Sunday. Explaining the hurdles in creating awareness, medical director Dr Rekha Gyanchand told Deccan Herald that a lot of people were under the impression that eyes had to be donated while they were alive.

“We get a number of letters from people asking whether we can perform surgery to a family member by taking one of their eyes.”  Also, many fear that the bodies of their loved ones will be disfigured after death if their eyes are taken out. Contrary to this misconception, one does not need to donate eyes when one is alive. Even after the death of a person, when the eyes are taken out, they are replaced with synthetic ones, Gyanchand said. No on can make out that the eyes have been taken out. Awareness needs to be created in this direction, dispelling fears of the people. Eye donation is not complicated. The procedure hardly takes 10 minutes and can be conducted within six hours of the person’s demise, she said.

Mayor D Venkatesh Murthy, who took part in the event, promised support for the cause.
“The government will extend aid to the cause by putting up hoardings and banners encouraging eye donation,” he said. He also promised Rs 50 lakh to the eye bank which conducts free surgeries on patients.

Managing trustee BLS Murthy said the Lions Eye Bank had enrolled more than a lakh eye pledges and had distributed more than 19,000 eyes free of cost. The bank has, till now, performed 5,360 corneal grafting. For each surgery, the eye bank spends Rs 1,800 and performs more than 7,000 surgeries annually.  “We have a target of Rs 5 crore towards this cause and have been able to collect Rs 1.5 crore,” he said, requesting the government to contribute for the cause. Vice Chairmen of the eye bank Prasad IS and Chinnaswamy Setty B were present.

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