And old Creek Indian proverb states, "We warm our hands by the fires we did not build, we drink the water from the wells we did not dig, we eat the fruit of the trees we did not plant, and we stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us."

In 1961, the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) was formed. This association stewards over 80 eye banks in the US with over 60,000 recipients each year of corneal tissue that restores sight to blind people. Over one million men, women, and children have had vision restored and pain relieved from eye injury or disease. The Eye Bank Association of America is truly a giant whom shoulders that we stand upon today. Their service and foresight into helping patients with blindness is remarkable.

It is important to give back the gift of sight. You may be asking, “how does this affect me?” On the back of your drivers license form there is a box that can be checked for being an organ donor. Many people forego this option because they are not educated on the benefits of it. There are many eye diseases that rob people of sight because of an opacity, pain, or disease process of the cornea. Keratoconus, a disease that causes malformation of the curvature of the cornea, can be treated by a corneal transplant. Chemical burns that cause scarring on the cornea leave people blinded or partially blind. This is another condition that requires a corneal transplant. 

When it comes to corneal tissue, virtually everyone is a universal donor, because the cornea is not dependent on blood type. Corneal transplant surgery has a 95% success rate. According to a recent study by EBAA, eye disorders are the 5th costliest to the US economy behind heart disease, cancer, emotional disorders, and pulmonary disease. The cost is incurred when the person, for example, is a working age adult and can no longer hold a job because of vision issues. The gift of a corneal transplant can be one way to restore not only their vision, but their way of life, and their contribution to society.

By becoming a donor, or educating others to consider being an organ donor, you can give the gift of sight to someone on a waiting list. When you educate others to give the precious gift of sight, you become a giant whose shoulders others can stand on. Become a donor today.

For more information go to www.restoresight.org or contact your local drivers license office.

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that can affect the retina of people who have diabetes.

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye, and it detects light that is then processed as an image by the brain. Chronically high blood sugar or large fluctuations in blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in the retina. This can result in bleeding in the retina or leakage of fluid.

Diabetic retinopathy can be divided into non-proliferative or proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy: In the early stage of the disease, there is weakening of the blood vessels in the retina that causes out-pouching called microaneurysms. These microaneurysms can leak fluid into the retina. There can also be yellow deposits called hard exudates present in the retina from leaky vessels.

Diabetic macula edema is when the fluid leaks into the region of the retina called the macula. The macula is important for sharp, central vision needed for reading and driving. The accumulation of fluid in the macula causes blurry vision.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy: As diabetic retinopathy progresses, new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These blood vessels are fragile, which makes them likely to bleed into the vitreous, which is the clear gel that fills the middle of the eye. Bleeding inside the eye is seen as floaters or spots. Over time, scar tissue can then form on the surface of the retina and contract, leading to a retinal detachment. This is similar to wallpaper contracting and peeling away from the wall. If left untreated, retinal detachment can lead to loss of vision.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy:

  • Asymptomatic: In the early stages of mild non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the person will usually have no visual complaints. Therefore, it is important for people with diabetes to have a comprehensive dilated exam by their eye doctor once a year.
  • Floaters: This is usually from bleeding into the vitreous cavity from proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
  • Blurred vision: This can be the result of fluid leaking into the retina, causing diabetic macular edema.

Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy:

  • Blood sugar. Lower blood sugar will delay the onset and slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Chronically high blood sugar and the longer the duration of diabetes, the more likely chance of that person having diabetic retinopathy.
  • Medical conditions. People with high blood pressure and high cholesterol are at greater risk for developing diabetic retinopathy.
  • Ethnicity. Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans are at greater risk for developing diabetic retinopathy.
  • Pregnancy. Women with diabetes could have an increased risk of developing diabetic retinopathy during pregnancy. If they already have diabetic retinopathy, it might worsen during pregnancy.