"If the eye is a camera, the cornea is the glass of its front lens with high focusing power through which light passes into the eye", said renowned eye specialist from Arunachal Pradesh Dr Reto Doye. Dr Doye said that corneal blindness encompasses a range of eye conditions that alter the transparency of the cornea, leading to corneal scarring and eventually blindness.
Corneal disease is very common in India, and people in the eight states of the North East are also affected by it. Causes of corneal blindness include a wide variety of infections and inflammatory eye diseases, ranging from keratitis, xerophthalmia, eye trauma, trachoma, congenital disease. Traditional eye medicine or home remedies often harm the eye rather than relieve pain or improve eyesight, said Dr Doye, the state's Director of Medical Education, Training & Research.
The factors responsible for corneal blindness are vitamin-A deficiency, childhood blindness due to hereditary, bacterial, fungal or viral keratitis, hereditary corneal dystrophy and eye injuries, he said.
Dr Doye, who obtained his degree from AIIMS, New Delhi, and is a WHO fellow (victor-retina), quoted the World Health Organization and said that corneal diseases are among major causes of vision loss and blindness in the world today, after cataract and glaucoma.
The state chapter of NPCB headed by programme officer Dr Taba Khanna conducts camps across the state to bring mass awareness about eye diseases, treatment and process of eye donation.In India, it is estimated that there are approximately 6.8 million people who have vision less than 6/60 in at least one eye due to corneal diseases; of these, about a million have bilateral involvement. It is expected that the number of individuals with unilateral corneal blindness in India will increase to 10.6 million by 2020.
According to the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) estimates, there are currently 1,20,000 corneal blind persons in the country. According to this estimate there is addition of 25,000 to 30,000 corneal blindness cases every year in the country. The burden of corneal disease in our country is reflected by the fact that 90% of the global cases of ocular trauma and corneal ulceration leading to corneal blindness occur in developing countries.
The state chapter of NPCB headed by programme officer Dr Taba Khanna conducts camps across the state to bring mass awareness about eye diseases, treatment and process of eye donation.
An intending eye donor has to vow in writing that is entered in a register. It is only after the death of the person that his/her corneal is removed for transplantation through surgery in the eye of a receiver, said Dr Reto Doye. He also said that most of the eye hospitals in the North East region, including Tomo Riba Institute of Health & Medical Sciences, Naharalgun and RKM Hospital, Itanagar, offer facility for corneal transplantation.