What Is a Corneal Transplant?\nThe cornea is the outer layer of the eye that acts as a barrier against dirt and germs. Its curved edge refracts light, helping your eye focus. When someone has an injured or diseased cornea, it may need to be replaced. This can happen through a corneal transplant.\nA corneal transplant replaces just the outer layer of the eye, rather than the whole eye. Sometimes, the remaining tissue is used for research or educational purposes. As of now, there is no man-made substitute for a real human cornea, so donated corneas are an essential part of the procedure.\nFor a successful transplant, the donor corneas must be recovered within a few hours of death. Most transplants occur within a week after recovery, according to the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA).\nThe surgery itself only takes about an hour. It’s generally performed as an outpatient procedure and has a high success rate; more than 95 percent of corneal transplant operations restore the recipient’s vision.\n \r\n \r\n\t Sign up for the Transplant Services newsletter \r\n \r\n Enter your email to subscribe\r\n \r\n \r\n\t \r\n Sign Up \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n I understand that by providing my email address, I agree to receive emails from UPMC. I understand that I may opt out of receiving such communications at any time.\r\n \r\n \r\n \nDonating Eyes\nUnless you have a highly communicable disease like HIV or hepatitis, you can be a cornea donor. You don’t have to have a certain blood type. People of all genders, ages, and races can donate. It also doesn’t matter what color your eyes are, or even how good your own eyesight is.\nIf you have a faith leader, you may want to talk to them for reassurance before registering to be an organ donor. However, organ donation \u2014 including donating eyes \u2014 is supported by the teaching of all the major religions, according to the EBAA. It’s also important to discuss your wishes with close family members.\nHow Do I Become a Donor?\nIf you’ve signed a donor card or registered online, or even marked “organ donor” on your driver’s license, you will be considered a donor when the time comes. Registered organ donors also agree to donate their tissue and corneas.\nTo become a cornea donor, you can register on the U.S. government’s national organ donor website or with the EBAA. You can also register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor by visiting UPMC.com\/DonateLife.\nReceiving a Corneal Transplant\nReceiving a corneal transplant can mean receiving the gift of sight. In 2016 alone, nearly 83,000 men, women, and children in the United States had their sight restored after successful corneal transplant surgery. Some patients see great improvement in a few weeks. For others, their vision may take up to a year to improve. The donated tissue usually lasts a lifetime.\nTo register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor, visit UPMC.com\/DonateLife. Organ donors have the potential to save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of 75 others, including giving the gift of sight.