WHAT IS A CORNEA?
UNDERSTANDING CORNEAL DISEASES
FUCHS' CORNEAL DYSTROPHY
Fuchs’ dystrophy is a disease of the cornea. It is when cells in the corneal layer called the endothelium gradually die off. These cells normally pump fluid from the cornea to keep it clear. When they die, fluid builds up and the cornea gets swollen and puffy. Vision becomes cloudy or hazy.
Fuchs’ dystrophy has two stages. In the early stage (stage 1), you may notice few, if any, problems. Vision is usually hazy in the morning but gets better throughout the day. This is because your eyes normally stay moist when they are closed during sleep. But when you are awake, the fluid dries normally.
With the later stage 2, vision remains blurry all day. Too much fluid builds up during sleep and not enough dries up during the day. Also, tiny blisters may form in the cornea. The blisters get bigger and eventually break open, causing eye pain.
People in their 30s and 40s may have Fuchs’ dystrophy but not know it. Vision problems might not appear until age 50 or later. Women are more likely than men to have Fuchs’ dystrophy. Family history of Fuchs’ dystrophy also increases your risk of developing it.
Your ophthalmologist will look closely at your cornea and measure its thickness. This is called pachymetry. They will also check for tiny blisters on the front surface of the cornea and drop-like bumps of the back surface of the cornea (guttae). Using a special photograph of your cornea, your ophthalmologist may count the cells in your endothelium.
There is no cure for Fuch’s Dystrophy. However, you can control vision problems from corneal swelling. Your treatment depends on how Fuchs’ dystrophy affects your eye’s cells.
Endothelial keratoplasty (EK): Healthy endothelial cells are transplanted into your cornea.
Full corneal transplant: The center of your cornea is replaced with a healthy donor cornea.