Gift of sight

By registering to become a cornea donor you could give someone the gift of sight after you pass away. The information below will explain more about what cornea donation means and why it’s important to patients like young Zeeshan. Through your donation, hospitals like ours can help give people their sight back. Being able to see and enjoy your surroundings is something many of us take for granted – until it’s gone.

I’m not sure I can donate?

Almost anyone can donate their corneas. The cornea is the clear tissue at the front of your eye that lets in light so you can see. This part of the eye is used in sight saving cornea transplants. Nationally there are not enough people donating their corneas meaning surgeons like the ones we have here at Queen Victoria Hospital cannot perform as many operations as they need to.

What is eye donation?

Eye donation involves donating your corneas – not your iris. It is sometimes called a keratoplasty, or a corneal graft. When you register as an organ donor, you can choose to be a tissue donor too. Donating your corneas is called a tissue donation.

Queen Victoria Hospital runs an eye bank service which facilitates the process of people donating their corneas when they’ve passed away, with also preparing corneas for transplantation. The team travel across Kent, Surrey and Sussex and are willing to speak to both professionals and families about how to have the important conversation on donation.

Can I be a cornea donor?

Most people are able to donate their corneas when they die. As with other tissue donations, even people who may be unable to donate their organs can usually become cornea donors. There is an upper age limit of 80 years for eye donors, however depending on national stock levels, this can sometimes be increased. Corneas can be donated up to 24 hours after you die. All the major religious faiths support eye donation.

Why do people need a corneal transplant?

People can need cornea transplants for quite a number of reasons including:

  • disease or injury that has made the cornea cloudy or distorted, causing vision loss
    scarring of the cornea after infections such as corneal ulcer
  • Keratoconus (thinning of the cornea that causes a cone-like bulge to develop, usually in young people)
  • age or inherited conditions that may lead to cloudiness of the cornea in older people
  • scarring caused by herpes (the cold sore virus).

I want to become a donor – what do I do next?

Tell your friends and family that you want to be a cornea donor – it is very important that they understand your wishes as your family’s support is needed for donation to go ahead. Dealing with the death of a loved one is a difficult time to make an important decision like this.

Sign up to the Organ Donor Register online. The NHS Organ Donor Register is a secure database that records people’s decision around whether or not they want to be an organ and tissue donor when they die.

Giving the gift of sight

Zeeshan’s dad talks about how corneal grafts have enabled his son to see the world like other children do.

Register your intention to become a cornea donor

Register your intention to become a cornea donor

Sign up to the Organ Donor Register online. It takes around 2 minutes and could give someone the gift of sight.

Our patients say thank you

Our patients say thank you

Some of our patients explain their experience of cornea donation in the series on short films

Having the conversation with your family and friends

Having the conversation with your family and friends

Read why one mum urges families to talk about cornea donation.

Information for healthcare professionals

If you'd like to know more about cornea donation please click on the links below.

Giving the gift of sight

Giving the gift of sight

Our information leaflet explains more about cornea donation and the role of our eye bank and surgical teams.