Fuchs’ Dystrophy is a disorder of the cornea. The disease causes the cornea to thicken and become hazy. This process occurs because a single layer of cells on the back part of the cornea is no longer able to function correctly. This layer of cells, called the endothelium, normally pumps fluid out of the cornea in order for it to maintain its clarity. If too much water enters the cornea, the cornea begins to swell and lose its transparency.
When the problem becomes chronic, further symptoms may appear. Painful corneal blisters and decreased vision are the most common and can occur because the cornea is not able to maintain its normal structure.
Fuchs’ Dystrophy tends to be a slow process because the endothelium (cell layer) slowly becomes non-functional. Several eyedrops and ointments can be prescribed to keep the cornea clear by drawing the water out of it. Sometimes a soft bandage contact lens is used to improve the patient’s vision and comfort.
At some point, it is often necessary to perform a corneal surgery called Descemet’s Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty in which the malfunctioning innermost layer of the cornea is replaced by a corneal tissue from a donor eye. This is sometimes combined with cataract surgery, replacing the lens within the eye with a clear implant.