Despite sight being the most valued sense fewer people would be prepared to donate their (eyes) corneas than other readily transplantable bodyparts.
Optegra Eye Health Care, has teamed up with research charity, Fight for Sight, to better understand the organ donation habits of the British public.
A survey of over 2,000 UK adults showed that 51% would donate their kidneys for transplantation or medical research, 49% their liver, 48% their heart and 47% their lungs but only 36% would donate their eyes.
Around 10 million people worldwide are blind because of damaged corneas. In the UK the NHS performs around 4,000 corneal transplants a year which rely on human organ donation.
Fight for Sight played a key role in helping to set up the UK Corneal Transplant Service in 1983. According to NHS Blood and Transplant corneal transplants are successful with 93% of transplants successful after one year. At five years, 74% are still functioning.
‘This research has explored patterns of behaviour around organ donation, and offered some fascinating insights into how adults regard their eyes. There is such importance, and sensitivity connected to eyes, and sadly this is at the cost of not being able to help others to see,’ said Rory Passmore, Managing Director for Optegra Eye Health Care. ‘With more and more people suffering eye conditions, particularly with an ageing population, it is more important than ever that we help if we can. We would really encourage people to discuss this with their families and complete a donor registration if they feel they can.’
Fight for Sight Director of Research, Dr Dolores Conroy, said: ‘There is a need for 70 corneas per week with the main indications being keratoconus in younger people and endothelial failure – Fuchs dystrophy – in older people. Fight for Sight is funding research into these conditions and we have a better understanding of the genetic cause of corneal dystrophies. With the lack of corneas available for transplants, it’s vital to have new treatments. We are developing stem cells therapies to repair the damage to the cornea, gene-replacement therapies and drugs that may be delivered as eye drops to repair faulty genes.’