What is Fuchs’ dystrophy?
Fuchs’ dystrophy is a type of eye disease that affects the cornea. Your cornea is the dome-shaped outer layer of your eye that helps you see.
Fuchs’ dystrophy can cause your vision to decrease over time. Unlike other types of dystrophy, this type affects both of your eyes. However, vision in one eye may be worse than the other.
This eye disorder may go unnoticed for years before your vision worsens. The only way to help Fuchs’ dystrophy is through treatment. In the case of vision loss, you may need surgery.
How common is Fuchs’ dystrophy?
Fuchs’ dystrophy is more common in women than in men. Vision problems DO NOT appear before age 50 in most cases. However, a health care provider may be able to see signs of the disease in affected people by their 30s or 40s. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of Fuchs’ dystrophy?
The common symptoms of Fuchs’ dystrophy are:
- Glare, which can decrease your vision in dim and bright light.
- Blurred vision, which occurs in the morning after awakening and gradually improves during the day. As the disease progresses, blurred vision either can take longer to improve or doesn’t improve.
- Pain or grittiness from tiny blisters on the surface of your cornea.
Other symptoms can include distorted vision, sensitivity to light, difficulty seeing at night and seeing halos around lights.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes Fuchs’ dystrophy?
Normally, the cells lining the inside of the cornea (endothelial cells) help maintain a healthy balance of fluids within the cornea and prevent the cornea from swelling. But with Fuchs’ dystrophy, the endothelial cells gradually die, resulting in fluid buildup (edema) within the cornea. This causes corneal thickening and blurred vision.
Fuchs’ dystrophy can be inherited. The genetic basis of the disease is complex — family members can be affected to varying degrees or not at all.
What increases my risk for Fuchs’ dystrophy?
There are many risk factors for Fuchs’ dystrophy, such as:
- Fuchs’ dystrophy is slightly more common in women than in men.
- Having a family history of Fuchs’ dystrophy increases your risk.
- Although there’s a rare early-onset type of Fuch’s dystrophy that begins in childhood, typically the disease starts in the 20s and 30s, with symptoms developing in the 50s and 60s.
Smoking and having diabetes might also put you at higher risk of the disease.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is Fuchs’ dystrophy diagnosed?
Fuchs’ dystrophy is diagnosed by an eye doctor called an ophthalmologist or optometrist. They’ll ask you questions about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. During the exam, they’ll examine your eyes to look for signs of changes in your cornea.
Your doctor may also take a specialized photograph of your eyes. This is conducted to measure the amount of endothelium cells in the cornea.
An eye pressure test may be used to rule out other eye diseases, such as glaucoma.
Signs and symptoms of Fuchs’ dystrophy can be difficult to detect at first. As a rule of thumb, you should always see an eye doctor if you experience vision changes or discomfort in your eyes.
If you wear contacts or eyeglasses, you should already see an eye doctor on a regular basis. Make a special appointment if you experience any possible symptoms of corneal dystrophy.
How is Fuchs’ dystrophy treated?
Eye drops or ointments that draw fluid out of the cornea are used to relieve symptoms of Fuchs’ dystrophy.
If painful sores develop on the cornea, soft contact lenses or surgery to create flaps over the sores may help reduce pain.
The only cure for Fuchs’ dystrophy is a corneal transplant.
Until recently, the most common type of corneal transplant was penetrating keratoplasty. During this procedure, a small round piece of the cornea is removed, leaving an opening in the front of the eye. A matching piece of cornea from a human donor is then sewn into the opening in the front of the eye.
A newer technique called endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK, DSAEK, or DMEK) has become the preferred option for people with Fuchs’ dystrophy. In this procedure, only the inner layers of the cornea are replaced, instead of all the layers. This leads to a faster recovery and fewer complications. Stitches are most often not needed.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Fuchs’ dystrophy?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Fuchs’ dystrophy:
- Apply over-the-counter (nonprescription) salt solution (5 percent sodium chloride) eyedrops or ointment.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses with ultraviolet protection.
- Dry your eyes with a hair dryer. Hold it at arm’s length and direct warm — not hot — air across your face two or three times a day. This helps remove excess fluid in the cornea, which decreases swelling.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
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