Frequently Asked Questions

An eye bank obtains, medically evaluates, prepares and distributes corneas donated by caring individuals for use in cornea transplants, research and education. Eye banks are non-profit organizations.

The cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped window covering the front of the eye. It works with the lens to provide focusing power to the eye. If the cornea becomes opaque, swollen or scarred, vision is compromised and a cornea transplant may be necessary.

This surgical procedure, performed by an ophthalmologist, replaces a disc-shaped segment of a damaged or diseased cornea with a similarly shaped piece of a healthy, donated human cornea.

Anyone can. The great thing about corneal tissue is that everyone is a universal donor. Your blood type does not have to match. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what color your eyes are or how good your eyesight is. Aside from those suffering from infections or a few highly communicable diseases such as HIV or hepatitis, most people are suitable donors.

You can register online by visiting the Iowa Donor Registry website. When you apply for your Iowa driver's license at your local Iowa Department of Transportation office, you will be asked if you would like to register as a donor. If you check "yes" on your Iowa driver's license application form, you've given legal consent to donate your eye, organ and tissue after your death.

It is important to tell your next of kin your donation wishes. Next-of-kin cooperation with a medical/social history interview is required before transplantation, so it is helpful if your family and friends know how you feel about donation.

A cornea transplant is typically performed within 2 – 5 days following the donation. Successful outcomes for the recipients rely on timely transplants.

The need for corneas is NEVER fully met. Approximately 40,000 cornea transplants are performed annually in the United States. Here in Iowa more than 13,000 corneas have been provided for transplants since the Iowa Lions Eye Bank was founded in 1955. Corneal transplantation is one of the most frequently performed human transplant procedures and is more than 95% successful in restoring the recipient’s vision.

No. Great care and respect is taken by the recovery technician to preserve the donor’s appearance. Families may proceed with funeral arrangements as scheduled, including an open casket viewing.

Research efforts develop new and more effective prevention and treatment options for patients with blinding eye disease, as well as providing a deeper understanding of the progression of these disorders. Donated eye tissue, whether healthy or impaired, is needed to continue research of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, numerous inherited eye diseases, and retinal disorders.

High speed lasers are providing more precise surgical incisions. Bioengineering techniques make use of stem cells to create corneal tissue that can be transplanted into the eyes. Descemet Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK) is an advanced technique in corneal transplantation, providing faster recovery and better visual result for the patient. However, the newest technique is a refinement of DSAEK and is labeled Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK). The Iowa Lions Eye Bank is the first eye bank in the nation to prepare grafts for DMEK procedures that provide patients with the best possible outcomes.