Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy is a progressive disorder of the cells that line the inside layer of the cornea, known as the endothelium. These cells are responsible for keeping the cornea clear, compact and in a relatively dehydrated state so the cornea can be seen through the same way someone might see through a piece of glass. Damage to the endothelial cells results in a thickened, hazy cornea that becomes difficult to see through.
Fuchs’ Dystrophy is an abnormality of the inside layer of cells on the cornea. These cells are the most important in maintaining the health of the cornea. Fuchs’ Dystrophy can be hereditary, and although it is not preventable, early diagnosis can give your doctor a chance to keep it from getting worse.
Our Long Island eye care professionals find that Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy usually presents symptoms when people enter their fifties and is particularly common among women. It is hereditary. Since it’s progressive, it gets worse over time. It can also be exacerbated after cataract surgery, although there are measures a surgeon can take to prevent additional damage to the endothelium. Symptoms include blurred vision (not correctable with glasses), painful episodes especially upon awakening, foreign body sensation and overall eye irritation.
Various treatments for Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy are available at our eye care centers. Lubrication is important. Artificial tears help to smooth over the surface of the eye. Hypertonic drops also help to draw fluid out of the cornea. Some people even find blowing air on the cornea in the morning with a blow dryer helps to dehydrate the cornea enough to find some relief.
When the above methods of treatment are no longer helpful, a cornea transplant should be considered. Originally, the only way of transplanting endothelial cells was by performing a full thickness cornea transplant, known as a penetrating keratoplasty. Currently, there is a newer, more sophisticated surgery available known as a DSAEK (Descemet’s Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty). This is a type of partial cornea transplant where we only transplant the endothelial cells. There is a much smaller incision, less sutures, quicker recovery time, and better visual outcome than with the traditional cornea transplant.