Fuchs' endothelial dystophy is a disease of the cornea, the clear window in the front of your eye that focuses light and helps you see. In people with this disease, the number of cells within the cornea start to decrease, which makes the remaining cells swell. Over time, the loss of cells and the resulting swelling affects the vision. Here's what you need to know about this eye disease.
How do you know you have it?
This disease affects your vision in one or both eyes. Blurred vision is a common symptom. In the early stages of the disease, your vision will only be blurry in the morning, but in the later stages, your vision will be blurry all the time. In addition to blurred vision, you may also experience distorted vision or glare. You may have trouble seeing at night or in low light conditions. These vision problems will progress slowly over a number of years which can make the problem hard to detect.
In the later stages of the disease, you will have visible symptoms on the surface of your eye, as well. You may see blisters on your cornea, or your cornea may look cloudy.
Your opthalmologist will run tests to confirm the diagnosis of Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy. A visual inspection of your corneal cells will be done and the doctor may also measure the thickness of your cornea to check for swelling.
What causes it?
Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy is often caused by genetic mutations, or problems in your DNA. These genes are passed down through the generations and usually affect at least one person in each generation. Only one parent needs to have the Fuchs' gene to pass on the disease to one or more of their children.
You can still develop this disease without any family history of the condition, though the cause for this isn't clear.
How common is it?
Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy is not a very common condition. One study estimated that about 278,000 Americans have the disease. That sounds like a lot of people, but remember, there are more than 300,000,000 people in the United States. This means that only 0.08% of people in the United States are currently suffering from this eye condition.
While the disease is rare, it's more common among certain groups of people.This disease usually affects people who are 40 years of age or older, and women get it more often than men do.
How is it treated?
Many treatments are available for Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy. In the early stages of the disease, minimally invasive treatments are preferred. You may be given eye drops to reduce the swelling in your cornea and help you see better. Soft contact lenses can also reduce the swelling because they provide slight pressure to the cornea, like a bandage.
If your condition becomes more advanced, eye drops and contact lenses won't be enough. At this stage, you will need surgery. Sometimes, a full corneal transplant is required, but often, only part of the cornea needs to be replaced. In this procedure, the back of the cornea will be replaced with donor tissue, but you'll get to keep the front portion of your own cornea. Your opthalmologist will tell you which procedure is better for you.
Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy is a serious eye disease that often strikes later in life. If one of your parents had the condition, and you are now experiencing symptoms, you need to see an opthalmologist from a place like Advanced Retinal Institute Inc right away. The disease can be easily managed in the early stages, but if you wait to seek treatment, you may need to have a corneal transplant.