What is Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy

The front clear window of the eye is called the 'cornea'. As we age, the cells lining the innermost surface of the cornea reduce in number over time. This normal age-related decline in cells is accelerated in some people, with characteristic fine deposits seen under the microscope: this is called'Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy'. This can cause the cornea to start to become thickened, losing its clarity, which causes a deterioration in vision. 

What are the symptoms of Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy?

This condition is quite common, and many people do not develop symptoms at all. However, some people experience blurred vision - this is typically noticed in the morning, with the vision gradually clearing as the day goes on. Over time, it starts to take longer and longer for the vision to clear each day. Haloes, glare, and difficulty driving at night are also common symptoms. In more advanced cases, the eye can develop intermittent episodes of pain, with persistently blurred vision.

Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy and Cataract Surgery

The cells lining the innermost surface of the cornea are reduced in number in patients with Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy. Cataract surgery involves the removal of the cloudy lens (cataract) using high frequency ultrasound through a small incision in the cornea. This can lead to damage to the fragile corneal cells lining the cornea - this is very rarely a problem for healthy eyes, but in Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy, these cells are already damaged and reduced in number, and so this can lead to swelling and clouding of the cornea after cataract surgery in patients with Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy. The risk of this can be minimised with careful surgery, and special techniques. If you have Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy, it is recommended that you seek a specialist opinion from an ophthalmologist with experience in Corneal Disease, who can discuss you needs with you, and explain the procedure in more detail.

What treatment do I need?

Many patients will not need treatment. A regular check up with your specialist is recommended to monitor the condition. In the early stages, if your vision is affected, eye drops can be of help, as well as techniques to encourage dehydration of the cornea. There is no current treatment that slows the progress of this condition, although in most patients change is very slow over 10 or 20 years. In a minority of patients, corneal endothelial transplant surgery can be necessary to restore vision. This is an area of rapid scientific development, and there are now good surgical treatments available for the few patients who need them.