Fuchs' dystrophy is an inherited eye disease that causes the cells in the last layer of the cornea to deteriorate, leading to distorted vision and corneal swelling. The exact cause of Fuchs' dystrophy is unknown, but is believed to be a combination of hereditary, hormonal and inflammatory factors. This condition affects both eyes and is more common in women than in men.
The cornea is made up of five different layers, each of which has a specific function that controls vision. The endothelium is the back layer of the cornea, which removes excess fluid from the stroma, the largest part of the cornea made up of water and collagen. Excess fluid can cause the stroma to swell and vision to become distorted.
When these cells deteriorate more rapidly than normal, fluid will continue to build up and vision will worsen. Once cells are lost, they do not grow back, so this condition will continue to progress with time.
Although this condition is inherited, symptoms do not usually appear until the patient is over the age of 50. Patients with Fuchs' dystrophy may experience blurred vision as the first sign of this condition. Blurred vision occurs as a result of fluid accumulating in the cornea while you sleep. As this fluid evaporates throughout the day, vision will improve. Other symptoms of Fuchs' dystrophy may include:
- Sensitivity to bright lights
- Halos around lights
- Poor night vision
- Sharp pains in the eyes
- Sandy, gritty sensation in the eyes
- Fluctuating vision
While there is no cure for Fuchs' dystrophy, there are several treatment options available to help relieve the symptoms of this condition and to prevent permanent damage. In its early stages, Fuchs' dystrophy can often be treated with a salt solution to remove fluid from the eye and reduce swelling. Patients can also relieve excess fluid in the cornea by holding a hair dryer at arm's length and blowing air towards the face. These methods are often successful in temporarily improving vision during the early stages of Fuchs' dystrophy.
In more advanced stages, Fuchs' dystrophy may begin to interfere with daily activities and prevent patients from functioning normally. In this stage, patients may require a corneal transplant to replace the cornea with full, thick layers that allows them to see clearly.