The number of corneal transplants needed to restore vision keeps growing each year. Nationwide, ophthalmologists performed more than 48,000 of these procedures in 2013, about 10,000 more than five years prior, according to an American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) news release. As this need continues to increase, organ donors who provide the eye tissue that makes these sight-restoring operations possible will become even more important.
In support of Eye Donor Awareness month this March, AAO is encouraging eye donation for corneal transplants by highlighting the importance of this life-changing surgery.
Lorie Gordon needed a new cornea because of keratoconus, a condition in which the cornea bulges, causing distorted vision. Her sight deteriorated so rapidly in her left eye that she needed a prescription for her glasses every 6 eight 8, and worried that failing eyesight would prohibit her from driving and working. After consulting her ophthalmologist, she underwent a corneal transplant to get a healthy cornea. Now, Gordon still needs glasses, but she can see well enough to read books and magazines, and keep her job as a teacher’s assistant.
“I think it’s a miracle,” said Gordon, now age 49. “I’m able to see again and there’s no price you can put on that.”
Patients like Gordon receive donated corneas from their local chapter of the Eye Bank Association of America. The Eye Bank is the country’s largest network for recovering, storing and distributing eye tissue and corneas for donation, relying on organ donors who sign up through their state licensure program or a donor registry. More than 95 percent of all corneal transplant operations will restore vision in the recipient, making corneal transplants some of the most successful types of transplantation in medicine, according to the Eye Bank.
“Corneal transplants have been able to restore vision to people who previously had no hope,” cornea specialist Stephanie Marioneaux, MD, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Gordon’s ophthalmologist, said in the news release. “They can drive again, go back to work and live more fully thanks to eye donors, whose legacy will forever include helping others regain the precious gift of sight.”
For more information on becoming an eye donor, visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services organ donation website, www.organdonor.gov.