Fuchs' Dystrophy

Vitamins/supplements   Cornea structure   Corneal edema   Symptoms   Causes   Self help summary   Self help discussion   News   Reviews


Fuchs' dystrophy is a slowly progressing disease that usually affects both eyes and is slightly more common in women than in men. The inner cell layer in the cornea, the endothelium, deteriorates, the Descemet's membrane thickens and cysts develop in the epithelium layer. Although doctors can often see early signs of Fuchs' dystrophy in people in their 30s and 40s, the disease rarely affects vision until a person reaches their 50s and 60s. Homeopathic eyedrops and eyedrops without mercury compounds or anticholinergics may help ease the symptoms and preserve vision.

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The cornea is comprised of several layers of tissue as follows:

  • Epithelium: Outermost layer filled with thousands of tiny nerve endings that make the cornea extremely sensitive to pain. It blocks foreign material and provides a nutrient and oxegen-absorbing surface.
  • Bowman's Layer: Collegen fibers to help keep the cornea's shape.
  • Stroma: Gives the cornea strength, elasticity, and form; and nourishing cells.
  • Dua's Layer: Recently discovered, a thin air-impervious layer.
  • Descemet's Membrane: Base for growth of endothelium cells
  • Endothelium: Single layer of cells that pumps excess water out of the stroma.

Corneal Edema

The changes to the endothelium and Descemet's membrane lead to corneal edema. The cells of the cornea become less efficient at pumping water out of the stroma. This causes the layers of the cornea to swell and to distort vision, finally resulting in pain and severe visual impairment.

cornea layers

Corneal swelling damages vision in two ways:

  1. changing the cornea's normal curvature, and
  2. causing a sight-impairing haze to appear in the tissue.
  3. Epithelial swelling will also produce tiny blisters on the corneal surface. When the blisters burst, they are extremely painful.


The first symptom is blurry vision that clears during the day. The cornea is a little thicker in the morning and retains fluids that the cornea's pumping action hasn't removed. These evaporate through the day. But as the condition worsens the swelling doesn't improve and begins to reduce vision all through the day. Because of the many different genes that are contributory the condition begins at younger ages than for others.


  • Free radicals can damage the eyes. They are formed when the ultraviolet and blue light of sunlight passes through the crystalline lens. Free radicals are also natural byproducts of metabolism. These highly reactive chemicals cause oxidation, and can destabilize healthy cells in the back of the eyes. Free radical damage is accelerated by smoking, chronic fatigue, and having a compromised immune system.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies and poor digestion - Often sufferers of macular degeneration are deficient in a number of the nutrients that are essential to eye health: essential fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, taurine, antioxidants, bioflavonoids, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B-complex.
  • Heredity

Conventional Treatment

Conventionally, doctors will first try to reduce swelling with soft contact lenses or ointments. They may also instruct a person to use a hair dryer directed across the face at arm's length, several times a day, to dry out the epithelial layer and tear film.

But when the disease makes visual distortion severe, a corneal transplant is possible. The short-term success rate of corneal transplantation is quite good for people with Fuchs' dystrophy. But, some studies do suggest that the long-term survival of the donor cornea can be a problem.

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