The cornea is the transparent layer across the front of your eyes that provides protection and helps focus light rays as they pass through the lens to the retina at the back of the eye. Fuchs' dystrophy is a serious eye condition that causes thickening and swelling of the cornea due to a build-up of fluid within the corneal cells. The condition tends to develop in people over the age of thirty and affects both eyes. It's an inherited condition, but some cases do occur with no family history or other identifiable cause. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for Fuchs' dystrophy.


In the early stages of development, Fuchs' dystrophy often causes no obvious symptoms. As the condition progresses, cloudy and blurred vision are common. Sensitivity to bright light, seeing halos around lights and eye pain are also common. You may also feel like you have grit in your eyes, and this feeling is caused by small blisters developing on the cornea. Symptoms may be worse when you first wake up and improve as the day goes on.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach 

Your optometrist can spot the signs of Fuchs' dystrophy during an eye test. They will use a slit lamp, which is similar to a microscope, to examine the cornea and look for swelling or irregular bumps along the surface. Your optometrist may refer you to an ophthalmologist for diagnostic imaging, such as a corneal tomography, to determine the extent of damage and measure the thickness of the cornea.  

Fuchs' dystrophy requires a corneal transplant, and you will be placed on a waiting list until a donor becomes available. The wait doesn't tend to be too long, as more people donate their eyes than other organs. While you are waiting, you will have regular appointments with your optometrist and ophthalmologist to check your eye health, and you may be given eye drops to reduce the fluid in your cornea, which can bring temporary relief of your symptoms.  

The transplant is carried out using local anaesthetic and you can choose to have a sedative. Once your surgeon cuts away the damaged cornea, they secure the new cornea with stitches, which will have to be removed a few weeks after the procedure. You'll spend a day or two in hospital for observation and you'll have follow-up appointments to ensure your eyes are healing well.  

Your optometrist will carry out an eye test when the corneal stitches have been removed, as tiny scars on the cornea from your surgery can affect the angle that light enters your eyes, which may cause minor visions problems, such as near-sightedness. Glasses or laser eye surgery can resolve minor vision problems. 

If you have symptoms associated with Fuchs' dystrophy, or if you have any concerns about your eye health, schedule an eye test with your optometrist as soon as possible.

To learn more, contact a local optometrist today.