Frequently asked questions
There are multiple causes of vision problems, many will not prevent you from becoming an eye donor.
The most important thing you can do is to let your family know your wishes, especially the person who will have to carry out your wishes when you pass. Beyond that, there are a few ways to sign up as a donor, please click here to learn more about signing up.
When you sign up as a whole body donor most programs will not allow other donations to take place, though most of the programs in our service area will make an exception for eye donation. To be safe check when you sign up with a whole body program.
A laboratory exam is necessary to determine whether or not the corneas may be used for transplantation. The consent for eye donation also includes consent for a necessary blood sample and release of medical history in order to rule out the possibility of transmitting certain infectious diseases to corneal transplant recipients. Once all medical history and lab data are evaluated, the Lions Eye Bank can determine the best possible use of the donor eyes.
Costs for recovering donor eyes are paid by the Lions Eye Bank.
Donated eyes should be recovered as soon as possible after the death has occurred, to ensure that the delicate corneal cells remain healthy and functioning.
The removal of eyes should cause no delay in funeral arrangements, as the procedure is not a lengthy one.
The eyes are gently lifted, the space filled, and the lids closed. It is performed much the same as any other surgical procedure, and the donor’s body is treated with respect.
The trained technical professionals who perform the procedure make every effort to maintain the natural appearance of the donor. Usually one can not tell that the eyes have been removed. In rare cases, medical circumstances may cause some puffiness or discoloration in the eye area. Preparation of the donor for burial by the funeral home is the same as, or similar to, that for a non-donor. The eye donation should not affect the family’s ability to have an open-casket funeral.
All eye donations are confidential. No one need know about the donation unless the family wishes it known. Recipient information in transplant cases is also held in confidence. This is in order to respect the privacy of all individuals involved.
You are more then welcome to send a message to our offices for the donor’s family, if the family wishes to receive messages we will forward your message to them.
The cornea is the clear front “window” of the eye. The cornea focuses light on the retina, and works as a “pump” to keep vision clear.
Damage to a cornea interferes with its continuous action of pumping fluids to keep the front of the eye clear. A damaged cornea will swell and become clouded, reducing or robbing the patient of sight. Many corneal diseases worsen over time, until the only medical option is to replace the existing damaged cornea with a functioning cornea from an eye donor. Severe infections, and accidents such as puncturing injuries or acid burns on the cornea can also result in the need for a transplant.
Corneal transplantation helps restore vision for patients whose corneas have been damaged through diseases, injuries, or infections.
The cornea being prepared for a partial-thickness transplant.
“Partial-thickness” transplantation (see photo, below) is a newer surgical technique that may be used to replace only damaged inner layers of the cornea. The procedure is useful for patients whose outer corneal layers are still healthy. The cornea is specially prepared, using an instrument called a microkeratome. The partial-thickness graft makes it possible to retain the patient’s healthy cell layers and creates a stronger graft that does not require stitches. Patients whose corneal damage can be cured with this type of transplant regain their vision more rapidly.
The Eye Bank recently rose to the challenge of preparing surgical corneas for a very exacting new transplant procedure, in which the surgeon extracts a single cell layer from a donor cornea and uses it to replace the same damaged cell layer in the patient. The Eye Bank uses two different approaches to prepare the corneas, involving the micro-injection of air into the delicate tissue to separate the layers pre-surgically. One method is done by hand, the other using the Eye Bank’s microkeratome to first cut the corneal cross-section. We are only the second eye bank in the nation to provide this service to qualified surgeons trained in this very focused transplant technique. Patients who are medically eligible to undergo these transplants should experience faster healing and return of vision than even results from the original partial-thickness transplants.
After the transplant, the cornea is held in place with an air bubble, instead of stitches.