What could be more important than the gift of sight? Unfortunately, most people take their vision for granted until it starts to decline. One eye disease that can cause visual problems is called Fuchs dystrophy. What is Fuchs dystrophy – and how does it affect the ability to see?
What is Fuchs Dystrophy?
Fuchs dystrophy is an eye disease involving the cornea of the eye that’s not uncommon. It affects up to 5% of the population over the age of forty and is more frequent in women. The cornea is a transparent covering on the front of the eye that helps to focus light along with the help of the lens. Because of the role it plays in focusing, the shape of the cornea determines whether a person is near-sighted or far-sighted.
What Causes Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy?
The cornea of the eye is lined with cells called endothelial cells. In Fuchs dystrophy, these endothelial cells break down for reasons that aren’t completely understood. As they deteriorate over the years, the surface of the cornea can’t remove water as well. As the water collects, the cornea becomes swollen to the point that it distorts vision. At the same time, collagen starts to collect in certain areas of the cornea leading to abnormal areas called guttate lesions.
Some people are genetically predisposed to Fuchs corneal dystrophy, but trauma to the eye can also play a role in this eye disease. Some studies suggest that oxidative damage is a factor in Fuchs dystrophy, and that antioxidants could play a role in preventing it.
What are Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy Symptoms?
People can have signs of Fuchs dystrophy on eye exam as early as their thirties, but the visual changes may not appear for another twenty to thirty years. The cardinal symptom is blurred vision, which is worse in the morning and improves as the day goes on.
Over time, as the disease progresses, vision may become permanently blurry. A person with Fuchs dystrophy can even progress to complete blindness. People with Fuchs dystrophy may also have light sensitivity and see halos around lights. When looking at their eyes, you may see a visibly cloudy cornea.
Treatment of Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy
Treatment consists of reducing the swelling using ointments, eye drops, or soft contact lenses. If the symptoms progress, the only treatment option may be a corneal transplant. Fortunately, this surgery has a high success rate, although rejection of the corneal tissue can be a problem for some.
What is Fuchs Dystrophy: The Bottom Line?
Fuchs dystrophy is a relatively common eye condition that can progress over the years to severe visual impairment. Fortunately, progression is slow and corneal transplant is a treatment option in many cases.
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.
Emedicine website. “Dystrophy, Fuchs Endothelial”