Nagpur: The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns have hit eye donations hard in Second Capital over fears of infection. The past one year did not report a single eye donation in Nagpur affecting hundreds of blind persons. Corneal transplants have reportedly been stopped by hospitals in the city over fears of corona infection.
In India, around 52,000 corneas are collected by eye banks annually and 50% of them are not fit for corneal transplantation. There are around 1.75 crore blind persons. After cataract, corneal blindness is the most common form of blindness in the country. The city sees around a hundred eye donations a year.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has brought down the numbers to negligible. Cornea is the clear, dome-shaped surface covering iris that helps protect the eyes from dust, germs, and foreign particles. A corneal transplant, or keratoplasty, is a surgical procedure that replaces a damaged or diseased cornea with healthy tissue from a donor. Since there is a risk of transmission of Covid-19 through conjunctiva of the eye, most hospitals have stopped doing corneal transplants leaving many blind persons in the lurch.
In Nagpur, there is a waitlist of around 4000 blind persons awaiting donors. During the 2018-2019 period, 496 persons pledged eye donations. Out of this, corneal transplants were done on 144 blind persons giving them eyesight. The GMCH received 81 corneas and 65 blind persons got the eyesight with corneal transplant procedure.
However, in the year 2020-21, not a single eye donation was done following the coronavirus outbreak. According to an eye specialist, as with most solid-organ transplants, the risk of transmitting infectious diseases and viruses is an important aspect of corneal transplantation that can affect recipients or those handling donor tissue.