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“You only have one pair of eyes.” Those were my mother’s words every time I did something that could hurt my eyes such as running with a stick when I was a kid or opting for contact lenses instead of eyeglasses when I was an adult. Mom didn’t know about Fuchs' corneal dystrophy back then, she only knew life could be difficult when blind in one eye.
Fifty years ago, doctors couldn’t explain why in her 30s, a dark spot formed in the center of one eye, blocking mom’s vision. But if she were alive today, her ophthalmologist would have diagnosed her eye problem as Fuchs' corneal dystrophy. I know this because I was recently diagnosed with the same thing.
What is Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy?
Experts at the National Eye Institute say, “Fuchs' dystrophy (a genetic disorder) occurs when endothelial cells (a thin layer of cells that line the back part of the cornea) gradually deteriorate without any apparent reason. As more endothelial cells are lost over the years, the endothelium becomes less efficient at pumping water out of the stroma. This causes the cornea to swell and distort vision. Eventually, the epithelium also takes on water, resulting in pain and severe visual impairment.”
What are the symptoms?
An ophthalmologist who specializes in corneal disease can diagnose Fuchs' when you are in your 30s and 40s. But you probably won’t experience symptoms until you reach your 50s and 60s.
The Mayo Clinic describes symptoms as follows:
- Blurred vision on awakening that gradually clears up as the day goes on
- Distorted vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Seeing halos around lights
- Generalized eye discomfort
- Painful, tiny blisters (epithelial blisters) on the surface of your cornea — caused by excess fluid within the cornea
- A cornea that is cloudy or hazy in appearance
- Blindness — may occur late in the disorder
When to see a doctor
If you have experienced any symptoms from the list above, make an appointment with an ophthalmologist who specializes in diseases of the eye (specifically corneal diseases).