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Even as the number of eye donations has increased from 680 in 2009 to 1,321 in 2013, the proportion of unused eyes has also increased from 185 to 400 in the same period, data from AIIMS showed. More than 2.5 lakh blind people in India could regain eyesight if a majority of the Indian hospitals start conducting eye transplants, showed statistics recently released by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). According to Delhi-based ophthalmologists, nearly 60 % of the eye donations go to waste in India. Read: Have you pledged your eyes yet? Experts speak.
'Usually when the eyes are donated they either get infected with diseases, or are not stored in the eye banks on time. The biggest problem is that the window lapses as eyes from a dead person have to be retrieved within six hours after death,' said Amit Singhal, ophthalmologist consultant at city based Sharp Sight Group of Eye Hospitals. Read: These are the rules of organ donation you should know.
According to him, the removed eyes should be implanted in the next 24 hours, or stored at an eye bank, where it could be preserved for up to 14 days only. Many harvested eyes are rendered useless as they are declared unfit for transplant. Data from the Health Ministry has revealed that 51,354 eyes were donated in 2013-14, of which only 22,384 were used for transplant. The numbers have remained dismal over the past few years, with more than 50 per cent of the donated eyes going to waste. Read: Donor age not a factor in corneal transplants.
'There is a need for young people to be encouraged to donate their eyes, as older people mostly have some or the other health ailments due to which their eyes are not fit to be transplanted. Every donated eye is checked for various diseases like HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) before implantation,' said Singhal, adding that despite all these arrangements, it is difficult to use all the donated eyes as eyes of old people in the age group of 70-80 are of least use due to blurred cornea.
Stating that visually impaired people can also donate their eyes if they are not corneal blind, a leading Delhi-based ophthalmologist Samir Sud said: "In our country we need to encourage visually impaired people to come forward for eye donations and dispel a common myth that a blind person cannot donate his eyes."
"Visually impaired surely can donate their corneas if they are not corneal blind because in India we have an estimated 4.6 million people with corneal blindness that is curable through corneal transplantation made possible by eye donation," Sud added.
Experts also said that though there's no dearth of people willing to donate their eyes in India, more transplants can't be conducted due to a shortage of eye bank technicians and eye donation counsellors.
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