Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy (sometimes called “Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy) is a condition where the innermost layer of the cornea begins to fail.
The cornea’s interior layer is called the endothelium. The cells in this layer perform the critical function of helping maintain proper fluid levels in the cornea. These specialized cells act as “water pumps” to pump excess fluid out of the cornea, which prevents corneal swelling. When they do their job properly, endothelial cells keep the cornea dehydrated and optically clear, which is essential for good vision.
But when these cells begin to fail, the cornea becomes swollen. The endothelial cells cannot regenerate and the patient begins to experience a gradual decline in vision due to corneal edema (swelling) and clouding.
When the disease progresses further, corneal swelling can blister the front of the cornea, an area known as the epithelial bullae. This condition is known as bullous keratopathy and further impairs vision.
Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy typically affects both eyes and runs in families.
What Are The Symptoms Of Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy?
Symptoms can include the following:
- Vision that’s cloudy when you wake but improves some during the day
- Foggy or blurred vision, such as looking through a frosted window
- Eye pain
- Sensitivity to glare and light
- Seeing color halos around lights
- Diminished night vision
- The feeling that something’s in your eye
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, please schedule an appointment for an eye exam. Our physicians will determine the cause of your problems and craft a treatment plan to help.
What Causes Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy?
There is some evidence that Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy may have a hereditary cause, but it can also occur in patients who have no previous family history. The cause is often unknown.
What Are The Treatments For Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy?
Because the endothelial cells cannot regenerate themselves, treatment for Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy usually requires a partial thickness corneal transplant. This partial transplant is called a DMEK or DSEK.
This is an alternative to a full corneal transplant (called a Penetrating Keroplasty, or PKP). DMEK and DSEK both have a quicker recovery time and less chance of rejection. These procedures replaces the endothelium layer, but leaves the other layers of the cornea untouched conveying fewer risks than PKP.
Tissue for the transplant comes from an eye bank. After surgery, it may take as little as 2 weeks or up to two or three months for vision to stabilize. Most patients have good vision afterward with glasses or contact lenses.
The cornea specialists at Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun thoroughly evaluate each patient and recommend a carefully planned treatment regimen customized to each patient. Our offices in Knoxville, Farragut, Hardin Valley, Maryville, Fountain City, Oak Ridge, and Sevierville are ready to help. For an appointment, call (865) 584-0905.