Story by Jonathan Chi
The cornea is the window of the eye. It is a transparent protective membrane at the front of the eye through which light rays must pass for us to see. The cornea accounts for two-thirds of the eye’s ability to focus light rays on our retinas. As a result, damage to the cornea usually results in blurred vision, often accompanied by pain and sensitivity to light.
Corneal ulcerations and subsequent scarring of the corneal tissue is a major cause of blindness and impaired vision throughout the world. A once normal healthy transparent cornea becomes thickened and opaque from scarring. Common causes of corneal ulceration and opacification in developing countries include infectious diseases, work-related trauma, and vitamin A deficiencies.
Irma Top is a young girl who has suffered from severe corneal opacification in her left eye. She originates from San Juan Sacatepequez, a poor community in Guatemala. In 2004, she received a corneal transplant from Visualiza Eye Care System, a dedicated team of eye care professionals and a local partner of Seva Canada. Children in Irma’s situation often have vision as low as 20/200 before surgery. However, most of them regain vision to 20/40 or better with a corneal transplant. Irma recently came in for a routine follow-up of her corneal transplant and we are happy to report that her vision is 20/20 in both eyes.
Although corneal ulceration is a common and debilitating disease if left untreated, much of the resulting visual loss is avoidable through early diagnosis and prompt appropriate treatment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case given the limited eye care resources available in developing countries like Guatemala. That is why Seva Canada’s mission of delivering eye care to children and the poor is an important one. Seva Canada helps to deliver and maintain the gift of sight that is universally important to everyone, including children like Irma.