Overview

Fuchs' dystrophy causes the clear layer (cornea) on the front of your eye to swell. The disorder can lead to glare, cloudy vision and eye discomfort.

Fuchs' dystrophy usually affects both eyes and can cause your vision to gradually worsen over years. But most people with Fuchs' dystrophy don't develop symptoms until they reach their 50s or 60s.

Some medications and self-care steps may help relieve your Fuchs' dystrophy signs and symptoms. But when the disorder is advanced and you've lost vision, the only way to restore vision is with cornea transplant surgery.

Fuchs' dystrophy care at Mayo Clinic

Symptoms

As the disease progresses, Fuchs' dystrophy symptoms, which usually affect both eyes, might include:

  • 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.

When to see a doctor

If you have some of these symptoms, and especially if they worsen over time, see an eye care provider, who might then refer you to a corneal specialist. If symptoms develop suddenly, call for an urgent appointment. Other eye conditions that cause the same symptoms as Fuchs' dystrophy also require prompt treatment.

Causes

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.

Risk factors

Factors that increase your risk of developing Fuchs' dystrophy include:

  • Sex. Fuchs' dystrophy is slightly more common in women than in men.
  • Genetics. Having a family history of Fuchs' dystrophy increases your risk.
  • Age. 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.

Fuchs' dystrophy care at Mayo Clinic

July 14, 2017
References
  1. Facts about the cornea and corneal disease. National Eye Institute. http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/cornealdisease. Accessed April 2, 2017.
  2. What is Fuchs' dystrophy? American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-fuchs-dystrophy. Accessed April 2, 2017.
  3. Vedana G, et al. Fuchs endothelial cornea dystrophy: Current perspectives. Clinical Ophthalmology. 2016;10:321.
  4. National Library of Medicine. Fuchs endothelial dystrophy. Genetics Home Reference. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/fuchs-endothelial-dystrophy. Accessed April 2, 2017.
  5. Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 2, 2017.