Fuchs’ Dystrophy is a slowly progressing disease that usually affects both eyes. It is slightly more common in women than in men. Expertly trained Woolfson Eye Institute surgeons can often see early signs of Fuchs’ dystrophy in people in their 30s and 40s, but the disease rarely impacts vision in a noticeable way until people reach their 50s and 60s.
This condition occurs when endothelial cells gradually deteriorate without any apparent reason and the endothelium becomes less efficient at pumping water out of the stroma causing the cornea to swell and distort vision. Eventually the epithelium also takes on water, resulting in pain and severe visual impairment. This swelling damages vision by changing the cornea’s normal curvature and causing a sight-impairing haze in the tissue. Epithelial swelling may also produce tiny blisters on the corneal surface that are extremely painful when they burst.
A person with Fuchs’ dystrophy will typically awaken with blurred vision that will gradually clear during the day, because the cornea is normally thicker in the morning from retaining fluids during sleep that evaporate through the tear film during the day. As the disease worsens, this swelling will remain constant and reduce vision all day long.
At Woolfson Eye Institute, your surgeon will try first to reduce the swelling with drops, ointments, or soft contact lenses. They also may instruct you to use a hair dryer directed across your face to dry out the epithelial blisters two or three times a day. When the disease interferes with daily activities, you may need a corneal transplant to restore sight. The success rate of corneal transplantation is quite good for people with Fuchs’ dystrophy.