Corneal dystrophies are a collection of rare hereditary eye disorders where abnormal material builds up in the cornea - the clear round dome that covers the pupil and the iris.
Most disorders affect both eyes, progress at a slow pace, and run in families. The cornea is made up of the following layers:
- Epithelium - outermost protective coating of the cornea
- Bowman membrane - it is the second protecting layer and is very strong
- Stroma - thickest cornea layer made up of collagen fibers, connective tissue, and water
- Descemet membrane - thin inner layer
- Endothelium - innermost cornea layer that comprises of cells whose function is to pump excess water from the cornea
The corneal disorder is characterized by the accumulation of foreign materials in one or more of the five cornea layers. The foreign materials can cause the cornea to lose its transparency, which can, in turn, lead to blurred vision or complete loss of vision.
There are more than twenty different type of this disorder, though they can typically be assembled into three key categories, depending on the cornea part they affect.
Superficial or Anterior cornea disorder affects the outer layers of the corner: the Bowman membrane and epithelium.
- Stromal cornea disorder impinges on the stroma
- Posterior cornea disorder targets the innermost parts of your cornea: the Descernet and endothelium membranes.
Symptoms and Risks
The symptoms experienced by a patient depend on the type of disorder that the person has. There are those that do not experience any symptoms, while in others, the buildup of foreign materials makes the cornea opaque leading to the loss of vision.
Many individuals also experience cornea erosion, which causes varying pain levels in the eye and sensitivity to light.
Who Is At Risk
Given that this disorder is genetic in nature a family history of this condition increases your risk of developing it.
The condition can appear at any age. Both genders are affected by the condition.
Treatment of cornea disorders depends on the type of dystrophy that a person has, as well as the severity of the symptoms. For people that have not exhibited any symptoms, the eye doctor may need to monitor their eyes continuously to check whether the disorder is progressing.
In most cases, people with a cornea disorder experience recurring corneal erosion, which can be treated using lubricating eye drops, antibiotics, ointments or by using special soft contact lenses designed to protect the cornea.
If cornea erosion continues, additional treatment options such as the use of laser vision correction may be recommended.