Diseases affecting the cornea are a major cause of blindness all over the world. A range of infectious and inflammatory eye conditions ultimately affect the transparency of the cornea and cause corneal blindness. They add a substantial burden to the community in general and healthcare resources in particular all over the world. Further, individuals with corneal blindness are usually of a younger age group compared with those suffering from cataract. Hence, in terms of total blind years, the impact of corneal blindness is greater.
In India, there are approximately 6.8 million people who have corneal blindness with vision less than 6/60 in at least one eye, and of these, about 1 million have bilateral corneal blindness. If the present trend continues, it is expected that the number of corneally blind individuals in India will increase to 10.6 million by 2020.
The cornea services at Aravind Eye Hospitals in Madurai, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli and Pondichery see around 8,000 cases of infectious keratitis every year, probably the greatest number in the world. Of these cases, 50% are caused by fungi.
The significant conditions seen in this clinic are corneal ulcers, corneal dystrophies, of which the majority are Macular corneal dystrophies.The first case of Acanthamoeba keratitis in non-contact lens wearers was reported in the cornea clinic at Aravind-Madurai. Current research investigates the use of new antibiotics in the treatment of bacterial keratitis as well as the genetics of macular corneal dystrophy.
Refractive surgery was started in 1999. LASIK and ZYOPTIX is now performed at all Aravind Eye Hospital centres averaging around 350 eyes monthly.
Through the Rotary Aravind International Eye Bank, corneally blind patients at Aravind receive corneal transplants almost daily.