By Adrian Galbreth
The thickness of a person's cornea may be linked to an eye disease that can cause blindness, according to experts in the US.
Specialists at Case Western Reserve University say the new findings could change the standard of practice for those treating Fuchs' Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy (FECD), which is characterised by cornea swelling that can eventually lead to the need for corneal transplantation.
The Fuchs' Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy Genetics Multi-Center Study Group was led by co-principal investigator Dr Jonathan Lass, Charles I Thomas Professor and chair of the university's Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.
In collaboration with Dr Sudha Iyengar, professor of Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Genetics, and Ophthalmology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, they found that changes in the corneal thickness occur in patients at early stages of FECD even before swelling is observed in the clinical setting.
The study is published in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology and suggests that FECD patients should have the thickness of their corneas measured annually to monitor progression of the disease.
As the disease advances, it was previously believed that the cornea remained clear and its thickness did not change at the early stages, though this study shows that the cornea in fact experiences a gradual swelling and becomes progressively thicker.
Usually, patients only see an ophthalmologist only when the swelling becomes critical and the surface becomes swollen and the vision blurs, but the new study suggests ophthalmologists should use ultrasonic technology to measure the potential progressive thickening of the cornea.
This can assist with counselling patients on early surgical intervention before scarring develops and interferes with visual recovery, Dr Lass explained.
"It's important if you have the disease, to be checked regularly and have your thickness measured."
"In the short term, if your vision is decreasing, an ophthalmologist can determine whether it is coming from your cornea or a concurrent cataract and that would assist a surgeon in intervening earlier with either cataract surgery, corneal transplantation, or continuing monitoring of the disease's progression," the expert concluded.
by Alexa Kaczka