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An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind - Mahatma Gandhi


image by: Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann

"Earlier this week I was asked by a friend if I could have a cornea transplant. I replied kindly saying, “Sure, but there is nothing wrong with my corneas.” Her response? “Oh sorry there was a man on TV who was blind and got a cornea transplant and was able to see again.” What angers me about this conversation is not that she asked the question, she doesn’t know any better. What angers me is that the media does this ALL the time!

If you’re going to put something on TV about Cornea Transplants, Lasyk, Clinical Trials, New Research or Guide Dogs have the decency to give ALL the details! I cannot tell you how many times in my life people have asked me if I could have laser surgery, or if they could transplant a new eye. Why oh why can the media and hollywood not be honest about all of this!

Between the nightly news, newspapers, television shows and movies the general public is completely miss informed about the realities of being visually impaired and the ability to cure certain impairments. Here are some examples of what I mean:

TV Show: Blind Justice – This was a show about a cop who goes blind and continues to work. Note: This is one of MANY! Apparently they keep thinking blind cops make good TV….The ONLY good TV show involving a blind character in law enforcement would be Auggie on Covert Affairs! Just saying.)

First off no one in their right mind would go back to work as a field officer if they lost their sight. Second no police force would allow it! Third just because he hears a water drop in a rain puddle doest mean he can tell the size of the room!!!

Movies: Lets see, there are so many. How about any horror movie ever made about a Blind/VI person getting an eye transplant!

Nightly News/Newspaper articles: Any story about a successful implant/stem cell / clinical trial. The news is the top reason I get phone calls from clients about the “new surgery”. They like to tell you about how successful it was but not who can have it in terms of VI requirements. Or how many people they have actually tested it on.

So I have decided it’s time to set the record straight, below is a list (yeah I know, me and my lists) of the top subjects and who they pertain to.

Cornea Transplants: This is kind of a obvious one but I am going to explain it anyway. Cornea transplants are for people who have issues with their cornea. As stated by The Mayo Clinic “A cornea transplant is a surgical procedure to replace part of your cornea with corneal tissue from a donor. Your cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped surface of your eye that accounts for a large part of your eye’s focusing power.

A cornea transplant can restore vision, reduce pain and improve the appearance of a damaged or diseased cornea. A cornea transplant, also called keratoplasty, is typically performed as an outpatient procedure. Most cornea transplant procedures are successful. But cornea transplant carries a small risk of complications, such as rejection of the donor cornea”

Lasik: As stated by allaboutvision.com – “LASIK is the most commonly performed refractive surgery procedure. You may hear people calling it “LASIX,” but the correct name is LASIK, which is short for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis.”

Why is it so popular? LASIK has advantages over other vision correction procedures, including a relative lack of pain afterward and the fact that good vision usually is achieved by the very next day.

An instrument called a microkeratome is used in LASIK eye surgery to create a thin, circular flap in the cornea. Another, newer way of making the flap is with a laser. The surgeon folds the hinged flap back out of the way, then removes some corneal tissue underneath using an excimer laser. The excimer laser uses a cool ultraviolet light beam to precisely remove (“ablate”) very tiny bits of tissue from the cornea to reshape it. When the cornea is reshaped in the right way, it works better to focus light into the eye and onto the retina, providing clearer vision than before. The flap is then laid back in place, covering the area where the corneal tissue was removed.

Both nearsighted and farsighted people can benefit from the LASIK procedure. With nearsighted people, the goal is to flatten the too-steep cornea; with farsighted people, a steeper cornea is desired. Excimer lasers also can correct astigmatism by smoothing an irregular cornea into a more normal shape.” The Mayo Clinic

As you can see the above mentioned topics are not meant for anyone other then those with either nearly perfect vision (Lasik) or those with Cornea issues (cornea transplant). These two things will NOT help those with other kinds of vision problems (ie. retinal or optic nerve issues).

Clinical Trials: Clinical trials are set up to help researchers see if their theories were right and if their new product works as they had hoped. These trials have very specific guidelines. Just because it says that such and such device has helped two people with Macular Degeneration it doesn’t mean it will work for you. Or that you will qualify for the trial. Here is an example for requirements to get into a recent Dry Macular Degeneration Trial:

Inclusion Criteria:

  1. Dry AMD in one or both eyes
  2. Age 50 or above of either gender
  3. Signed informed consent.

Exclusion Criteria:

  1. Known sensitivity to Mannitol or Copaxone.
  2. Skin disease or active infection of skin.
  3. Active fever or active treatment for infection.
  4. History of other uncontrolled systemic active disease.
  5. Premenopausal females not using reliable birth control.
  6. Sensitivity to fluorescein or iodine.
  7. Inability to comply with study procedures.

As I previously stated, not everyone qualifies. So please do your research or have someone do it for you before getting excited about what you hear on the news. The media tends to leave this bit of information out and just like to show the people who the drug/device helped.

Service Animals: I am not going to generalize to guide dogs due to that there are guide horses as well. Any who, the reason I bring this up is because a lot of my clients family members or friends have either asked me or asked them about getting a guide dog. Here is the deal, not everyone would benefit from a guide dog. You first have to learn to walk on your own with a cane.

Second you also need to be healthy enough to walk at least one mile and go on routine outings. Third you have to trust the dog. I don’t know about you but if I lost my good eye it would take a LOT for me to be able to trust a dog to guide me. If you are in your eighties and up, there is a good chance you’re not going to want to do it. Plus there is the other issues of taking care of an animal. If you are having issues taking care of yourself do not add to your stress with an animal, it would be unfair for the both of you.

Eye Transplants:  Unfortunately eye transplants are far from being a real possibility. Why you ask? it’s all due to your optic nerve and the thousands of nerves which reside in it. Picture a white piece of rubber with thousands of wires going through it. Those wires need to attach to specific part of the eye, so removing them from one and putting them in the correct place in the new eye is nearly impossible. Sadly your nerves are not color coded like some T.V. wires.

So the next time someone asks you if you can have such and such kind of surgery please feel free to send them my way. Maybe together we can squash these common media led misconceptions." Source: Misconceptions and the Media, The Blindo Diaries, June 3, 2012.