When I was in my mid 40's, my ophthalmologist mentioned that I had a
cataract starting and another eye condition with a tongue-twister name.
I had no symptoms and the long name meant nothing to me. I forgot about
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|Glare and Some Helpful Tips|
When I was 50 I had some bad experiences driving on the freeway at
night. There was a lot of glare from the oncoming headlights. Then on a
long summer auto trip I burned my corneas, probably from not wearing
sunglasses all those days on the freeways. During treatment
my doctor again mentioned my eye condition. This time I was
paying attention and made a note of the name, "endothelial dystrophy."
He mentioned Fuchs' Syndrome. I had no idea what it was all about. When
I ordered new glasses and told my optometrist what I had, she
suggested putting a tint in my lenses and adding an
anti-reflective coating. It was one of the first and most helpful
things I tried. I also began to wear oversized wraparound
sun-glasses, and sunvisors became a staple of my wardrobe.
At this stage my eye problem was distressing me so
much that I
tracked down a corneal specialist, Dr. Ronald Gaster at University of
California at Irvine. His diagnosis was the same as that of my regular
doctor. I met again with my own doctor and he set me up for a visit
to the medical library at St. Joseph Hospital, where I read everything
I could find about Fuchs'. My notes from that search are linked at the
bottom of this page.
Basically, as I understood it, the cornea is
a clear "window" covering the eye much like a watch crystal. With
this dystrophy, the cells in the corneal endothelium die off and do not regenerate, and the spots or scars left behind help cause the glare. Instead of
looking through a clear glass, the effect is more like looking
through molded glass with bubbles or textured surface. It splatters
the light all around. I also read that the cornea may eventually get
"edema," thickening and holding fluid which impairs the vision. The
effect is like trying to look through a steamed-up shower door.
According to my research, Fuchs' is an inherited eye disease. I
contacted my younger sisters and learned that a couple of them had
similar symptoms of night glare. However, to my knowledge my sisters
have not been diagnosed with Fuchs', and the glare problems may
be attributed to other eye conditions such as cataracts. I have
never known anyone else in my family to have had Fuchs'.
For several years I settled into the sunvisor routine, and changed
my oversized sunglasses from green tint to gray tint, because the gray
made it possible to see reds better (important for driving!). I
gave up night freeway driving entirely. I saw streetlights and
headlights with halos or rays of light coming out from them like
needles. Red and green stoplights were surrounded by a colored bright
fuzz. On surface streets at night and during the day if the light
was behind me, my vision was quite good. When the glare hit, the
vision faded in and out.
The "scummy" symptom started when I was close to 60. It was much
worse in one eye which had had a cataract removed. In the morning I'd
notice that I seemed to be looking through a heavy fog or a steamed-up
window. Usually it would clear up as the day went on, but within a
year it became such a problem that I again talked to my doctor. He gave
me an ointment to put in my eye at night, along with some drops for
the daytime. The ointment and drops are a kind of saline solution
which helps to draw away the water. He also suggested that wafting a
hairdryer across the eye might help make the excess water evaporate faster.
Some days the mist doesn't clear off the eye all day long. There
doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to it, but I have figured out a
few things that for me will make the foggy eye worse:
1. Lying down, Who needs a nap that leads to hours of misty
2. Bending over for any amount of time, such as bending over
needlework, digging through file boxes on the floor, pulling weeds.
"Heads up" work I handle pretty well. (Fortunately that includes
using the computer.)
3. Crying. I'm the worst at sad movies. But any
tears building up are squelched quick. Otherwise, I know I'll be
soon in "the fog."
4. Hot and humid days.
For more about Symptoms and Timetables, see Letters From Dorothy.
I wish I could paint what I see with my Fuchy eyes. The amazing colors
and shapes I get during certain eye tests should be in great demand as
art. My view of streetlights and stoplights is hard to describe. Stop
lights glow as a bright colored fuzz with a "hammered metal" effect in the
halo. Streetlights have hundreds of narrow long rays coming out from the
glowing center. Beautiful to behold, but the pits for trying to drive a
car. One night I was looking at the full moon and the glow of light around
it looked like cracked ice.
Fuchs' can move slowly, and I hope it continues to do so in my case,
because my research tells me the next stage may be painful and in the
end may require a corneal transplant. Corneal transplants are not as
simple as cataract operations, which people can almost get done on
their lunch hour these days. The cornea transplant as of now requires a
real cornea from the Eye Bank. The operation requires stitches, and
in the healing process the eye can change shape causing sight to "get
worse before it gets better" and maybe not improve the vision at all. I
am willing to wait until my vision gets pretty bad before going for
a cornea transplant. I hope the technology will continue to improve.
this point I have the best eyeglass prescription possible, I use a
magnifying glass a lot for small print and read only what I must
(because it's so much work). I cancelled the newspaper and read the
news online. I can work at the computer with or without the print
enlarged. I can still drive (barely) but choose not to do so because
California drivers go like a house afire, and my vision is not sharp
enough to see street signs clearly, my depth perception is off,
and I have trouble distinguishing from a distance whether traffic
lights are red or green. (Yellow traffic lights are OK.) Otherwise, I
see colors well, and a trip to a glass art gallery gives me a "light
show" beyond what others see, I'm sure.
The Summer I turned 63, the vision in my left eye nose-dived to 20/300.
The right eye was holding steady at 20/50. It was decided that I should
go ahead with the corneal transplant Nov. 14. Several people in my
Fuchs' Friends support group who had the transplant had given me
great information and encouragement, and although I knew the healing
process would take a lot of commitment, I was ready to go forward. I
kept a journal of my transplant. See My Corneal
|1. GET INFORMED! Hit these links.|
to the Best Informationabout Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy on the
Corneal Anatomy 101, simple analogies I've learned from the experts
Notes from sources at ST. Joseph's Hospital Library
|2. MEET OTHER FUCHS' SUFFERERS!|
Fuchs' is easier to deal with when you have knowledge about how to
live with it. And it's great to find others who know what you are going
through. If you have corneal dystrophy, do yourself a favor and join Fuchs' Friends Support
Group, now nearly 1500 in the same boat with you.
|4. JOIN FUCHS' FRIENDS, THE PRIVATE, FREE INTERNET SUPPORT GROUP STARTED IN 1999!|
Page updated July 15, 2005, by Dorothy
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