Corneal Dystrophies

A corneal dystrophy is a condition in which one or more parts of the cornea lose their normal clarity due to a buildup of cloudy material.

There are over 20 corneal dystrophies that affect different layers of the cornea. These diseases share many traits:

  • They are generally inherited.
  • They affect the right and left eye equally.
  • They are not caused by outside factors, such as injury or diet.
  • Most progress gradually.
  • Most usually begin in one of the five corneal layers and may later spread to nearby layers.
  • Most do not affect other parts of the body, nor are they related to diseases affecting other parts of the eye or body.
  • Most can occur in otherwise healthy male or female individuals.

Some of the most common corneal dystrophies include Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy, lattice dystrophy, and map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy.


Corneal dystrophies affect vision in widely different ways. Some cause severe visual impairment, while a few cause no vision problems and are discovered during a routine eye examination. Other dystrophies may cause repeated episodes of pain without leading to permanent loss of vision.


Most patients can be treated conservatively with lubricants and ointments. Some individuals with superficial dystrophies can be treated with phototherapeutic keratectomy (PTK). Some patients with dystrophies may eventually need a corneal transplant to enjoy good vision.