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What is Corneal Dystrophy?

Corneal dystrophy is a condition in which the clear outer layer of the eye (cornea) becomes thin and cloudy. The cornea is the eye’s outermost layer and helps to focus light, and when it’s damaged, you may experience vision problems. The exact symptoms and progression of corneal dystrophy vary from person to person. Corneal dystrophy starts with minor vision problems, but it can eventually lead to a severe loss of vision. There is no cure for corneal dystrophy, but treatment can slow its progression and improve vision.

Symptoms of Corneal Dystrophy:

  • Swelling of the cornea
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Crescent-shaped areas of opacity (guttata)
  • Corneal erosion
  • Sensation of objects in the eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Watery eyes

Types of Corneal Dystrophy

There are several different types of corneal dystrophy, which are classified based on the layer of the cornea that’s affected. The most common type of corneal dystrophy is called Fuchs’ dystrophy, which affects the innermost layer of the cornea (the endothelium). The other types of corneal dystrophy include epithelial dystrophy, which affects the outermost layer of the cornea, and stromal dystrophy, which affects the middle layer of the cornea responsible. Out of these, Fuchs’ dystrophy is the most common variation.

Fuchs’ dystrophy is a progressive condition, which means that it gets worse over time. The first symptom is usually a blurring of vision. This is followed by the appearance of “crescent-shaped” areas of opacity (called “guttata”) in the cornea. As the condition progresses, these guttata increase in number and size. They may eventually coalesce to form large, opaque areas, leading to a weakening of the cornea and a build-up of fluid in its layers. This can lead to severe vision loss and even blindness.

Causes of Corneal Dystrophy

Corneal dystrophy is caused by a mutation in a gene that is responsible for the normal production of proteins in the cornea. These proteins keep the cornea strong and clear. When the gene is mutated, it cannot produce these proteins correctly. This leads to a build-up of abnormal proteins and foreign material in one or more layers of the cornea, leading to corneal dystrophy.

Corneal dystrophy is a hereditary condition, which means it is passed down from parents to children through their genes. If one parent has the condition, there is a 50% chance that their child will inherit it. If both parents have the condition, there is a 75% chance that their child will inherit it. Furthermore, Fuchs’ dystrophy is particularly common among women in their 40s.

How is Corneal Dystrophy Diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing corneal dystrophy is a comprehensive eye exam. This will include a visual acuity test, which measures how well you see, and a slit-lamp exam, which allows your eye doctor to closely examine the structures of your eye. Your doctor may also recommend corneal topography. This test uses light to map the surface of your cornea. It can help your doctor see changes in the shape of your cornea because of corneal dystrophy.

Treatments for Corneal Dystrophy

There is no cure for corneal dystrophy, but our treatments can improve vision and prevent the condition from worsening. Our medical providers curate personalized corneal dystrophy treatment plans based on your symptoms, the variation of corneal dystrophy, and the affected corneal layers. The following are some of the treatments for corneal dystrophy:

  • Specialized eye drops and ointments lubricate the eye and prevent corneal dryness.
  • Corneal transplants replace the damaged cornea with a healthy one from a donor.
  • Contact lenses improve vision by correcting the shape of the cornea.
  • Laser surgery improves vision by reshaping the cornea.

Schedule an Appointment

Medical Surgical Eye Institute is a state-of-the-art ophthalmology practice specializing in cutting-edge treatments to improve your vision. We treat your eye conditions at the earliest stages to help you maintain optimal ocular health and vision. If you notice the signs and symptoms of corneal dystrophy, please schedule an appointment for your diagnosis in Worcester, MA.

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