Posted April 16, 2019
The cornea is the clear, front layer of the eye that helps you see. When light enters the eye, the cornea’s curved shape bends it so you can see objects close up or in the distance. If the cornea is damaged, by disease, injury or genetic factors, such as corneal dystrophy, your vision can be affected. Here are five things to know about corneal dystrophy.
What is corneal dystrophy?
Corneal dystrophy is a rare genetic disorder. Researchers have found 20 different types of corneal dystrophies, each with different symptoms. The disorder causes abnormal material to collect in the cornea, making vision cloudy or blurred.
Types of corneal dystrophy
The cornea has five layers. Corneal dystrophy can attack the layers in different ways. Medical experts classify the disorder into three groups:
- Anterior – affects the outside two layers of the cornea, called the epithelium and Bowman’s membranes.
- Stromal – impacts the middle and thickest layer of the cornea, called the stroma.
- Posterior – targets the two deepest layers of the cornea, called the endothelium and Descemet membranes. Fuch’s dystrophy is the most common disorder affecting these layers, impacting up to 4.5 percent of adults over age 50, usually more women than men.
Blurred or cloudy vision is the most common sign of corneal dystrophy. Other symptoms can include watery or dry eyes, light sensitivity and glare, pain or irritation, as though something is in the eye. Another sign is corneal erosion where the front layer of the cornea detaches and sticks to the eyelid, causing mild to severe pain.
Researchers believe corneal dystrophy primarily is genetic, passed down from family members. The disorder often affects both eyes of men and women. It starts slowly, usually before age 20, and gradually gets worse. It may take years before corneal dystrophy significantly affects eyesight.
During wellness exams, your eye doctor can detect early signs of corneal dystrophy by seeing if there are abnormal deposits on your cornea. If you have a family history of corneal dystrophy, tell your eye doctor.
Treatment may include regular exams to monitor the condition, along with eye drops and ointments. For advanced cases where corneal dystrophy affects vision, a cornea transplant may be necessary to replace part or all of the cornea tissue.
Researchers are studying corneal dystrophy to develop new diagnostics and treatment options, especially for Fuch’s dystrophy. To learn about new methods, read this article.
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