Can a blind person get an eye transplant? Let’s find out. Although corneal transplant is an option, most people having it will at least have their partial vision restored.
The only drawback is graft rejection which can occur even after transplant years.
Here is a related article that might intrest you on Can A Blind Eye Be Fixed?
Can A Blind Person Get An Eye Transplant
Almost 39 million people report blindness worldwide, which is also considered one of the scariest disabilities of all. There are different types and different causes of blindness.
The person can be blind by birth or went blind over a period of time; he can also have a slight perception of light or can be legally blind.
Anatomical Sites Where The Defect Can Lead To Blindness:
There are three main sites of the human eye that, when imaged, can make a person blind
- Cornea (Transparent layer of the eye)
- Optic nerve (The nerve that carries the message from the eye to the brain)
- Visual cortex (Brain)
Often word eye transplant is used, and people assume that the entire eye can be transplanted and treated. It can be thought of as a misnomer because currently, the only cornea can be transplanted. There is no way to transplant or correct an optic nerve defect. However, if there is any damage to the cornea, it could be transplanted.
Steps For Eye Transplant Or Corneal Transplant Surgery:
An eye transplant is a corneal transplant (Keratoplasty) in which a graft replaces the defected part of a patient’s eye. The graft usually comes from a dead person, but nowadays, some prosthesis is also used.
The cornea is a transparent part of the eye through which light penetrates and spreads, allowing us to see our surroundings.
A cornea transplant can treat several corneal diseases and restore a better vision. It has a high success rate and minor complications.
Pre Operative Methodology:
Once the patient is told about the surgery, we have to observe whether the patient is healthy and fit and will be able to tolerate the procedure. The patient will need to undergo the following:
- A detailed eye Examination: It’s to rule out any cause that can be a hindrance in surgery or lead to Post-Operative complications.
- Eye Measurements: Different cornea dimensions are measured, and measurements are taken to find out the best possible donor.
- Medications are revised: Any pharmacological intervention, drugs, or supplements are reviewed, and some of them might need to be stopped or altered before the corneal surgery.
- Other eye problems: Other eye problems are treated because they can get worse due to surgery sometimes; inflammation or infection can also cause tissue rejection.
Finding A Corneal Graft:
It’s not easy to find a corneal graft. This procedure is done massively, and there is usually high demand for corneas; it takes a month before you get a hand of it as many people are already on the list.
Secondly, this shortage and long waiting for corneal grafts can be overcome if people and relatives donate their eyes to death. Many people who die of carcinoma or infections are thought to be incapable of donating, but this is not true as the corneal blood supply is apart from the rest body supply, and body infections and carcinoma can’t spread through via corneal transplants.
Details of Procedure:
There are several ways to do a corneal transplant, and these methods are different from conventional operative techniques. Corneal transplants or surgeries are also known as Keratoplasty.
- Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK)
- A cut is given using sterile instruments on the cornea.
- It doesn’t matter if the cornea is entirely diseased or if it’s some part, an incision will be made.
- A small portion is removed in a circular cut.
- Previously made circular-cut space is filled by transplanting the donor’s cornea.
- Stitches are used to keep donor and receiver cornea to stay in place.
- Stitches might be removed later on.
- Endothelial Keratoplasty (EK)
- The cornea comprises several layers, and the lowest one is the endothelium and Descemet membrane.
- This procedure will remove the diseased part of the tissue from the back at the site of endothelium and Descemet.
- The diseased tissue is removed, and the donor’s corneal tissue is placed.
- This procedure is divided into two.
- DSEK, Descemet stripping endothelial Keratoplasty. The patient’s around 1/3rd cornea is removed and replaced by donor tissue.
- DMEK, Descemet membrane, and endothelial Keratoplasty. It’s instead a more challenging procedure than DSEK as in this, a relatively thinner layer of the donor’s cornea is transplanted. Despite its difficulty, it’s more commonly used than DSEK because of its results.
- Anterior lamellar Keratoplasty (ALK)
- In this procedure, layers from the front or above the cornea are removed rather than from its back side.
- Epithelium and stroma will be removed, and the endothelial layer will be spared.
- The degree of corneal damage determines the type of ALK performed.
- SALK, Superficial anterior lamellar Keratoplasty, only replaces the cornea front layer; hence superficially rest of the stroma and beneath layers are spared as they are healthy.
- DALK, Deep anterior lamellar Keratoplasty, is done when damage occurs to deep layers. A graft is used to replace the damaged tissue.
- Keratoprosthesis (Artificial cornea transplant)
Sometimes grafts are not available or are rejected by the host. In such conditions, the artificial cornea can be transplanted.
- Medications: To prevent infection, pain, and swelling, antibiotics and analgesics are given. They are given in the form of oral medications and eye drops.
- Eye shields: Eye protection, whether shields or glasses, promotes healing.
- Limit mobility: For some time, it will be advised to lie straight or limit the movement so the newly grafted can stay in place.
- Give rest to your eyes: Avoid going straight to normal activities suddenly. Slowly work your way to your routine, take precautions, and be careful for the rest of your life to avoid damage to the cornea.
- Also, be regular with your follow-up examinations.
Correction of Vision after Surgery
Your vision will not be restored as soon as you walk out of the operation theatre. It will take time, and the period also depends on the procedure and how much damage was to the cornea and many more components.
Initially, it will be even worse than before, and the newly transplanted cornea and eye will take some time to adjust. It might take up to several months.
Once your cornea heals, test pf the problems such as astigmatism. A doctor can correct vision problems. Astigmatism can be corrected by tightening or losing some stitches and vision problems with glasses or a laser.
Other conditions of Blindness:
- Damage to the optic nerve
The optic nerve is like a cable that has 1000 wires in it; similarly, millions of neurons run through the optic nerve, which is hardly 1.2-1.5cm and not more comprehensive than a fraction of an inch.
Once an area of the optic nerve is damaged, the part being supplied by the eye to the brain is left blind, and if it’s completely damaged, irreversible blindness occurs.
This type of blindness is not treatable because once the optic nerve is damaged, it can be corrected surgically, not transplanted.
- Damage to the retina:
Several causes and high prevalent comorbidities, such as diabetes and hypertension, result in retinal degeneration. Retinal damage can be prevented by taking precautions and treating the cause and diseases. Still, once retina and retinal ganglion cells are damaged, there is no way the vision is lost due to this cause to be restored. The fact is that neither this could be treated medically nor surgically through any transplant.
- Damage to brain
If there is damage to the brain or the visual cortex, it’s also hard to correct. Although it depends on the cause, if the brain cannot perceive the signals sent by the eye or make a picture out of it, there are rare chances of it being treated.
Can Transplanting The Whole Eye Be Possible?
Till now, an only a corneal transplant is possible; however, even if a surgeon transplant the entire eye into a socket, it will be of no use until the optic nerve’s integrity is preserved as the optic nerve is the pathway that connects the eye to the brain for light energy to be converted into images. There is no technique or procedure for preserving the optic nerve or transplantation.
Blindness is not a disease but a result. Its treatment lies in the cause and availability of the options. Although corneal transplant is an option, most people having it will at least have their partial vision restored. The only drawback is graft rejection which can occur even after transplant years.
Another post that will interest you is about the Do Blind People Blink And How Often Compared To People That Can See?
Annual follow-ups and medications can also manage this. It’s always best to discuss your condition with a doctor and follow his advice.