Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fuchs Dystrophy and Cornea Swelling

Fuchs Dystrophy is an inherited disorder of the cornea (the clear, dome-shaped window of the eye) that affects roughly 4% of people over the age of 40. Fuchs Dystrophy causes a thin layer of cells that line the back of the cornea (endothelial cells) to deteriorate prematurely resulting in a swollen cornea with too much water. Healthy endothelial cells are required to keep the cornea rid of excess water. This helps the cornea to be clear and facilitate proper light transmission so that a person can see clearly.

Fuchs Dystrophy is slowly progressive and usually affects both eyes. Although doctors often begin to see signs of Fuchs Dystrophy in a patient’s 30s and 40s, it rarely affects vision until they reach their 50s and 60s. At first, a person with Fuchs Dystrophy will awaken with blurred vision that gradually clears during the day. As this disorder advances, blurred vision remains throughout the day.

Initially, treatment consists of eye drops and/or ointments with a high salt concentration that helps clear the cornea by getting rid of excess water. As time goes by, this treatment may become ineffective such that vision remains blurred and quality of life becomes diminished. At this point, surgery can be performed to replace the deteriorating endothelial cells and restore vision. For the past fifty years, full-thickness corneal transplantation was the only way to replace the endothelial cells. This surgery is extremely successful; however, visual recovery takes approximately twelve months. Recently, a new technique known as DSEK (Descemet’s Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty) has been developed which allows vision to be restored in as little as three months.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about Fuchs Dystrophy or the various treatment options, please schedule an appointment with Birmingham Corneal Specialists Marc Michelson, M.D. or Tyler Hall, M.D. at Alabama Eye & Cataract Center by calling 205-930-0930. You can also visit us at Facebook.com/michelsonlaservision to schedule an appointment on-line!