February 14th is National Donor Day – Eye Donation

An observance day originally designated in 1998 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to raise awareness for organ, eye, tissue, marrow, platelet and blood donation.

You may have heard about someone having an “eye transplant,” but what exactly does that mean? As it turns out, only one part of the eye can be transplanted. Medical science has no way to transplant whole eyes. When someone receives an “eye transplant,” they are being given a donor cornea, at this point in time, much research is being done with the use of stem cells, but that is another subject for another day.

The cornea is the transparent outer portion of the eyeball that transmits light to the retina. It is a ½ inch wide film of tissue that forms a protective covering on the front of the eye. The cornea can become cloudy or damaged/distorted from diseases, infections or eye injuries.

Everyone is a universal donor for corneal tissue. Blood type does not have to match. Age, eye color and eyesight do not matter. Aside from those suffering from infections or a few highly communicable diseases, most people are suitable cornea donors.

Corneal blindness can be cured in many cases through the transplant of a donated cornea. Since there is limited blood supply to the cornea, matching is not usually a problem. The first corneal transplant was performed in 1905. During the last 40 years, more than 700,000 corneal transplants have been performed in the U.S., with a success rate of more than 90 percent.



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