Fuchs dystrophy is a disease of progressive nature which affects the eye’s cornea. Its cause is the build-up of fluid in the cornea’s tissue and its manifests itself via reduced vision acuity. It has two stages and t can be corrected via a corneal transplant. But, seeing as it is a progressive impairment with multiple stages, can it be prevented? Here are the details.
What Is Fuchs Dystrophy?
As noted in the introduction, it’s a disease that affects the cornea. This is the round, transparent dome that covers the center of your eye, namely the iris and the pupil. The cornea plays a crucial role in our eyes sight, as it helps gather light towards the pupil and iris. Therefore, any harm or damage that befalls the cornea will have grave consequences on your sight.
Fuchs Dystrophy is responsible for destroying or reducing the number of endothelial cells in the cornea. These are the ones which make up its inner lining, and they are also there to keep the water which constructs the entire cornea. If and when the number of these cells diminishes, the others will stop processing the water as they should.
As a consequence, fluid starts to build up. As it does, the cornea thickens as a layer and becomes more and more swollen. The result is that it also becomes cloudy, thusly impairing the patient’s vision. If the cornea itself is not crystal-clear, then the eye cannot see properly either.
Apart from the general thickening of the corneal layer, the disease manifests itself via guttata as well. These are outgrowths in the shape of a dew drop which develop right under the layer of endothelial cells in the cornea. The stratum they form is called Descemet’s membrane.
Seeing as this is a progressive disease, all these changes will affect one’s vision over time. The condition may result in scar tissue as well. If you do not visit your doctor in time and get to that phase, you might afterward need surgical intervention to remove the layer. The disease can also lead to blindness.
Fuchs dystrophy seems to happen more in women than men, as well as in people over 50 or 60 years of age. It can also set in during early adulthood.
What Causes Fuchs Dystrophy?
Unfortunately, Fuchs dystrophy is hereditary. If you have inherited from your parents, then you also have a 50 percent chance of passing on this condition to your children. Even so, inheritance is not the only cause. People have been known to get it without having their parents pass it on to them, because of genetic mutations.
What Are the Symptoms of Fuchs Dystrophy?
Here are the general symptoms one can find in relation to Fuchs Dystrophy.
- A cloudy or hazy vision.
- Seeing a glare around some objects, especially those which are very well lit up.
- Perceiving halos around objects.
- A reduced acuity of one’s vision.
- A diminished ability to be able to see contrasts.
- Having difficulty driving during nighttime.
- Experiencing fluctuations of the vision, especially in the morning. As the disease evolves, though, all these fluctuations will become a persistent thing throughout the day, not just early morning.
- Feeling pain in the eye itself, in case the malady is more advanced, and the patient already has blisters in the region.
The Stages of Fuchs Dystrophy
As mentioned in the introduction, the disease has two stages. Here are some details.
The first stage has only mild symptoms or can have none at all. During this period, the endothelial cells only swell up early in the morning and obscure the vision during that time of the day. However, as the morning washes away, so does the blurriness and the patient’s vision becomes clearer.
The reason why morning is such a bad time with this disease is the following. During the night, as you close your eye for a longer period during sleep, you keep the moisture evaporating from the cornea itself. It piles up in the cells, causing them to swell up and obstruct your vision.
In the second stage, the patient does not get better as the day progress. Consequently, the idea of blurred vision is a permanent thing now. Individuals who are in stage two of the illness can also feel pain in the eye and have a higher sensitivity to light than other people. They can also worsen their condition if they choose to spend time in extreme climates, such as those with high humidity.
In time, stage two can lead to scarring in the middle of the cornea, with some patients. Even though they will feel more comfortable to some extent, pain wise, the film of scar that forms in that area will still impair their vision.
It typically takes some 10 to 20 years for the disease to evolve from its earliest to its most advanced stage. However, the most important thing you must remember here is that, at the end of this period, your vision will suffer severe impairment. Therefore, if you believe you are experiencing any signs of Fuchs Dystrophy at all, you must visit your ophthalmologist.
While there, he or she can decide if you need a cornea transplant. Even so, the idea of an operation comes up very seldom, although it is a possibility.
Diagnosing Fuchs Dystrophy
The disease can only be diagnosed in a doctor’s office. Most of them recommend you do not diagnose or treat yourself at home, as this is a serious illness that can lead to partial loss of your vision. After you make an appointment, the doctor will perform a series of exams on your eyes, to determine their condition. Some examples of examinations include the slit lamp or measuring to see how thick your cornea is at the moment. The latter procedure also goes under the name of pachymetry.
If you happen to be in the earlier stages of the illness, then doctors will have an easier time giving you a diagnosis. The reason is that the cornea itself has less damage, and the results are visible. If you feel you need to visit your physician on account of some Fuchs Dystrophy symptoms, you may keep a log. It will help you to write down everything you feel and experience. You and your doctor will then have an accurate description of when the problems started happening and in which conditions you feel the worst.
Treatment and Prevention
In the beginning, we asked an intriguing question, one that people out there typically ask. Can you prevent the development of Fuchs Dystrophy? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is no. Seeing as the malady’s leading causes are genetic inheritance and genetic mutations, one cannot prevent it from happening.
It is not possible to stop the cornea cells from changing themselves. However, the question is an excellent one, which needs an answer, so that patients know on what to focus. And that is the treatment of the symptoms and alleviating the pain.
As far as treatment goes, it will vary given the stage in which the patient finds himself. Another thing that will differ will be just how often you need to see your eye doctor. Depending on the stage you are in when they diagnose you, they might want to see more of you so that they can keep you under control. People in early stages need to go only once a year. However, those in more advanced states or those who require special treatments will need to see their doctor once every few months or even more frequently than that.
As far as the treatments themselves go, apart from surgery, which they will recommend during the last stages of the disease, your doctor might also suggest the following. Searching for warmer climates, exposing yourself to warm environments, using a blow dryer and air vents. In general, doctors will recommend anything that can help evaporate all the extra water that you have building up in your eyes.
The reason is that Fuchs Dystrophy means the build-up of a lot of additional fluid in your eyes. Therefore, anything that can dry them out is a good remedy for the malady. An ointment, some drops, and bandage contact lenses can be the solution to your problem as well.
It is only in very highly advanced stages that it comes to a transplant of the cornea. The healthy one which will replace the patient’s damaged cornea comes from a human donor. He or she will receive a test beforehand, to make sure they do not suffer from diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis or any other conditions that are infectious. The new cornea also needs to pass the clarity test.
Corneal transplants are crucial, as they give one the gift of sight. This is the reason why donors are among the most highly respected people. Every year, 50, 000 people who have a form of corneal disease or another, including Fuchs Dystrophy, get back their sight via a corneal transplant from a donor.