More eye donors needed to help restore sight to patients
During National Eye Week (22-28 September) NHS Blood and
Transplant is calling for more eye donors as it reveals that only
about 5 out of 10 of the families who consent to donating their
loved one's organs also agree to cornea donation. What's more, the
overall number of eye donations across the UK from organ donors and
tissue only donors fell in the last financial year (2013/14) by 2
per cent, the first decrease in 7 years.
The cornea is the clear tissue at the front of the eye and is
carefully obtained from the eyes of deceased donors. Cornea
transplants are needed to restore the sight of people affected by
disease or injury, which can eventually lead to blindness. Last
year in the UK cornea transplantation helped to restore or improve
the sight of more than 3,500 blind and partially sighted
The hospital and patient demand for corneas fluctuates and so
NHS Blood and Transplant works hard to increase eye donation rates
and ensure that there are always high quality corneas available for
transplant. Corneas can only be stored for 28 days and so there is
a constant need for people to donate.
NHS Blood and Transplant is calling on people to commit to
donating their corneas, as well as other tissues and organs, by
joining the NHS Organ Donor Register. It is also asking those
already on the Organ Donor Register who have stated that they don't
want to donate their corneas, to change their mind and to update
what they are willing to donate at www.organdonation.nhs.uk
Despite there being a national shortage of corneas, 88% of
people who restrict which organs and tissues they want to donate
state they are not prepared to donate their eyes. This equates to 1
in 10 people on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Mr Arun Brahma, Ophthalmic Surgeon at Manchester Royal Eye
"Corneal donations are vital to the work we do here at the
hospital. They help to restore sight in those who have reduced
visibility through cornea transplantation. Rarely, donations that
are not suitable for corneal transplantation are still crucial, in
helping us develop our research into other eye diseases and the
treatment of conditions such as advanced glaucoma. This research
ultimately shapes the treatment of these conditions in the future,
which we would not be able to do without the help of donors."
Kyle Bennett, Tissue Bank Manager of NHS Blood and Transplant's
Tissue Services said:
"Patients across the NHS are in need of corneal transplants to
restore their sight. Each donor can potentially improve and enhance
the lives of two people by giving them the gift of sight.
"We always need more families to say yes to donating their loved
one's eyes, as corneas can only be used for transplant for a month
after donation. We want to highlight how important eye
donation is and that it is often possible to donate eyes even if a
loved one is not able to donate their organs after their death to
"We often hear people say they're squeamish at the thought of
donating their eyes after their death. But we can reassure you that
it is amazing thing to do and can really transform lives. We
also appreciate that people often don't want to contemplate death.
But as we need corneas from people of all ages to provide the best
matches for transplant, please take the time now to make a decision
about donation and tell those closest to you what you want to
happen. If you're finding it hard to decision, perhaps think about
whether you would want someone to donate their eyes if someone
close to you needed a cornea transplant.
"We are hugely grateful to every family who has ever made the
decision to donate organs or tissues as they have helped save and
improve the lives of others."
It is easier to donate tissue, such as eyes, than it is to
donate organs when you die. There is a longer window during which
you can donate tissue and you don't have to die in hospital to
become a tissue donor. This means that most people could
potentially donate some tissue when they die to help others.
In comparison, only around 5,000 of the half a million people
who die across the UK each year die in circumstances where they
could donate their organs. This means every potential organ
donor is precious.
The age of eye donors is important as the eye banks match
recipients with corneas from similarly-aged donors.
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk
To find out more about tissue donation visit: www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/tissuedonation