As 2017 draws to a close, and the promise and opportunity of a whole new year beckons, we at the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute would like to take a moment to urge each and every one of you to join us in a new year’s resolution that could help to drastically alter and improve countless people’s lives – to register your corneas for donation, and to encourage your friends and loved ones to do the same.
Corneal Blindness is a Global Issue
Corneal blindness is one of the major causes of blindness in the world today. According to the World Health Organisation, there are an estimated 4.9 million people worldwide who are corneally blind in both eyes, and countless more who are partially affected by the illness .
The issue is particularly pressing in the developing world, where it is the second most common cause of blindness – of the approximately 10 million people currently blind in India, 1.1 million have corneal blindness .
We Can All Help to Tackle It
Fortunately, corneal blindness is also treatable by transplanting healthy cornea tissue to replace the damaged ones. These transplants, which are currently the only known cure, are successful in around 85% of all cases – in 2015 alone, the fruitful partnership between the LV Prasad Eye Institute and the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute was able to improve and transform the vision of almost 60,000 people.
However, there are still many hurdles to face. In particular, there is a significant shortfall in the amount of corneal tissue available for transplant. Our founder, Tej Kohli, has written before about the scandalous wastage of corneal tissue in some parts of the world, but the most significant factor behind this shortfall is the ongoing reluctance of many people to register their corneas for donation.
10% of the UK’s organ donors withhold consent for certain organs, with tissue from the eyes by far the most common. In fact, 55% of the organ donors who specifically requested that certain organs not be registered for donation, chose their eyes as the organ they wished to exempt .
There are of course perfectly understandable explanations as to why people may not want their corneas to be donated, even if they have no such qualms for other organs. Among the most common of these are concerns over whether it is allowed by the individual’s religion, or whether it will leave visible disfigurement that will cause undue distress to their family and other mourners.
In fact, there is very little visible effect left by corneal donation, as it is only the thin, clear tissue covering the front of the eye that is needed for transplant. There are also very few restrictions on who can donate their corneas, and despite many people’s assumptions, the majority of world religions either accept or actively encourage the donation of organs.
Here at the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, we are continuing our research into innovate and ground-breaking ways to tackle the issue of global corneal blindness – but as we work to develop these solutions, we need your help to achieve our goal of reducing cases of corneal blindness by half by 2030. So as we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the new year, please consider giving a little something back by registering your corneas for donation – and on behalf of everyone at the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, and our founder Tej Kohli, happy new year!