November marks the inaugural Eye Donation Month!
Organ donation after death can include the gift of sight: eye donation. Last year, according to the Eye Bank Association of America, over 84,000 corneas were donated. The very first cornea transplant was performed in 1905, and since 1961, over 1.7 million transplants have been done.
Unlike other human organs, cornea transplants have a 95 percent success rate. This success is due in part, to the fact that there doesn’t need to be an “exact match” in race, blood type, or even eye color for the cornea — the transparent cover over the iris and pupil — to be attached.
Additionally, unlike other organs like the heart, lungs, or kidneys, corneas can be transplanted up to 3-5 days after the passing of the donor, so they remain viable for longer periods of time.
Anyone can sign up in advance to have their eyes donated upon death at organdonor.gov which is operated by the United States Department of Health and Human Services or the Eye Bank Association of America. The whole eye can be donated; however, only the cornea can be transplanted. The sclera tissue (white part of the eye) can be used to rebuild the eye of donor recipients. The remainder of the eye itself can be used for research into treatment and cures for future generations.