Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy

Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy is an inherited condition that affects the delicate inner layer (endothelium) of the cornea. The endothelium functions as a pump mechanism, constantly removing fluids from the cornea to maintain its clarity. Patients gradually lose these endothelial cells as the dystrophy progresses. Once lost, the endothelial cells do not grow back, but instead spread out to fill empty spaces. The pump system becomes less efficient, causing corneal clouding, swelling and eventually, reduced vision.

Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy Overview

In the early stages, Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy patients notice glare and light sensitivity. As the dystrophy progresses, the vision may seem blurred in the morning and sharper later in the day. This happens because the internal layers of the cornea tend to retain more moisture during sleep that evaporates when the eyes are open. As the dystrophy worsens, the vision becomes continuously blurred. Fuchs’ affects both eyes and is slightly more common among women then men. It generally begins at 30-40 years of age and gradually progresses. If the vision becomes significantly impaired, a corneal transplant may be indicated.

Signs and Symptoms of Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy

  • Fluctuating vision
  • Glare when looking at lights
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sandy, gritty sensation
  • Hazy vision that is often most pronounced in the morning

Detection and Diagnosis of Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy

Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy is detected by examining the cornea with a slit lamp microscope that magnifies the endothelial cells thousands of times. The health of the endothelium is evaluated and monitored with pachymetry and specular microscopy.

Treatment of Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy

Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy cannot be cured. With certain medications, however, blurred vision resulting from the corneal swelling can be controlled. Initial treatment involves use of a sodium based eye medicine, Muro 128, which is designed to draw out excess fluid from the cornea and reduce swelling. It is available as an eye drop which is used 4 times a day or as an ointment that is used at bedtime. The drops are available in strengths of 2% for less severe cases and 5% for more severe cases. The ointment is available in 5% only. Both can be purchased over the counter.

Get EyeSmart

Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s webpage on Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy.