Fuchs' dystrophy can cause eye pain and vision problems that worsen over time. Medications can help symptoms, but surgery may offer long-term relief.
In Fuchs' (fewks) dystrophy, fluid builds up in the clear layer (cornea) on the front of your eye, causing your cornea to swell and thicken. This can lead to glare, blurred or cloudy vision, and eye discomfort.
Fuchs' dystrophy usually affects both eyes and can cause your vision to gradually worsen over years. Typically, the disease starts in the 30s and 40s, but many people with Fuchs' dystrophy don't develop symptoms until they reach their 50s or 60s.
Some medications and self-care steps may help relieve your Fuchs' dystrophy signs and symptoms. But when the disorder is advanced and your vision is affecting your ability to function well, the best way to restore vision is with cornea transplant surgery.
With Fuchs' dystrophy, the body of the cornea (stroma) begins to thicken, and the cornea becomes cloudy.
As the disease progresses, Fuchs' dystrophy symptoms, which usually affect both eyes, might include:
If you have some of these symptoms, and especially if they worsen over time, see an eye care provider, who might then refer you to a corneal specialist. If symptoms develop suddenly, call for an urgent appointment. Other eye conditions that cause the same symptoms as Fuchs' dystrophy also require prompt treatment.
Normally, the cells lining the inside of the cornea (endothelial cells) help maintain a healthy balance of fluid within the cornea and prevent the cornea from swelling. But with Fuchs' dystrophy, the endothelial cells gradually die or do not work well, resulting in fluid buildup (edema) within the cornea. This causes corneal thickening and blurred vision.
Fuchs' dystrophy is usually inherited. The genetic basis of the disease is complex — family members can be affected to varying degrees or not at all.
Factors that increase your risk of developing Fuchs' dystrophy include:
Besides testing your vision, your doctor might also have you undergo the following tests to determine whether you have Fuchs' dystrophy:
Some nonsurgical treatments and self-care strategies might help relieve the symptoms of Fuchs' dystrophy. If you have severe disease, your doctor might suggest surgery.
People who have surgery for advanced Fuchs' dystrophy can have much better vision and remain symptom-free for years afterward. Surgical options include:
A variety of new treatments are being investigated that could change how Fuchs' dystrophy is managed in the future. After the genetic abnormality associated with most cases of Fuchs' dystrophy was discovered, there is a better understanding of how the disease might develop, and this offers the potential for nonsurgical therapies in the future. Various eyedrop treatments are being developed and may enter clinical trials in the future. Novel surgical treatments also are being studied to determine if they may be of benefit.
In addition to following your doctor's instructions for care, you can try these techniques to help reduce glare or soothe your eyes.
If you suspect that you have Fuchs' dystrophy, make an appointment to see an eye care provider (optometrist or ophthalmologist). In some cases, you might be referred to an ophthalmologist who specializes in corneal disease.
Here's information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Make a list of:
Take a family member or a friend along, if possible. You might not want to drive yourself home if your pupils have been dilated for the exam, and your companion can help you remember information you get during your appointment.
For Fuchs' dystrophy, questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as: