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Corneal dystrophy

Various pathologies of the outer membrane of the eye comprise up to 25% of all ophthalmologic diseases. Corneal dystrophy, a non-inflammatory, hereditary disease that affects the cornea and can provoke vision loss, is quite common.

Corneal dystrophy can also be acquired. It results from trauma, avitaminosis, postoperative scarring, and other factors.

What is corneal dystrophy?

The cornea is the outer membrane of the eyeball, which performs several major tasks:

  • It is involved in the light refraction processes;
  • It protects the eye organs from injury;
  • It maintains the shape of the eyeball.

The cornea consists of 5 layers, and the pathological process can affect any of them. Dystrophy or degeneration is a lesion to the cornea, which progresses without inflammation. Dystrophies include a whole group of diseases that are completely different in their etiology but have the same manifestations:

  • Affecting both eyes;
  • Progressing over time;
  • Causing blurred vision even with an insignificant lesion;
  • Changes in the eye membrane are irreversible, and the underlying cause cannot be treated.

Therefore, surgery is often indicated for dystrophy.

Causes of corneal dystrophy

Depending on the causes of corneal dystrophy, the group of diseases is divided into:

  • Primary ones, having genetic roots and belonging to the hereditary abnormalities.
  • Secondary ones, resulting from previously suffered ophthalmologic diseases.

There are several types of corneal degeneration. These include:

  • Band degeneration;
  • Stromal degeneration;
  • Endothelial degeneration;
  • Marginal degeneration.

Keratoconus and keratoglobus: frequent causes of corneal dystrophy

Congenital anomalies of the corneal structure are among the most common causes of degeneration:

  • If there is any abnormality, the cornea becomes cone-shaped, thinning, which leads to visual impairment. It progresses slowly, the peak of development falls on the 20-30th year, and almost always keratoconus is accompanied by astigmatism.
  • The cornea takes the ball shape and protrudes forward considerably. Its stretching causes myopia and astigmatism. It is observed in childhood and progresses slowly. Often keratoglobus appears alongside other pathologies such as blue sclera syndrome, bones fragility, and hearing loss.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Symptoms depend entirely on the dystrophy type and how quickly the disease progresses. Thus, in childhood and adolescence, the main symptom often includes photophobia with normal visual acuity. If the process is very slow, the onset of dystrophy occurs by the age of 45 and only then does the person fully experience the entire displeasure of this condition.

When corneal dystrophy progresses actively, the symptoms appear quite quickly:

  • Light sensitivity and photophobia are increased. Sometimes patients complain that they are literally “blinded”.
  • Abundant lacrimation. The eyes are watery for no apparent reason, with possible pain involved.
  • Feeling a foreign body in the eye is a very common sign. The sensation is accompanied by tearing and pronounced pain.
  • Swelling and redness of the cornea. Mild swelling can only be determined by ophthalmologic diagnosis.
  • A clouding or a white spot appears.

Symptoms may be blurred or partially expressed, depending on the pathology type. Constant eye fatigue and blurred vision are the first messengers of the disorder.

Eye check-up with an ophthalmologist is quite enough to diagnose corneal dystrophy.

Following a comprehensive diagnostic examination, the doctor will be able to explain the condition of the patient’s visual system and provide recommendations for treatment.

Medications for corneal dystrophy

Medications for corneal dystrophy do not treat the underlying cause and do not remove it completely. Depending on the condition, certain techniques and medications are used to treat the patient.

Soft contact lenses are also chosen, which can be combined with gels and ointments. If the process is slow, medication treatment can last for years, but if the patient is willing to get rid of corneal dystrophy, or degeneration develops rapidly, surgical intervention is indicated.

Dystrophy treatment at Eximer Ophthalmology Clinic

Eximer Ophthalmology Clinic provides professional surgical treatment of eye dystrophy in Ukraine.
If there is a need for surgical correction of corneal dystrophy, the procedure itself is a rather radical method. Keratoplasty removes the disease by transplanting the cornea. The method depends on the damage rate:

  • Penetrating keratoplasty. This is a transplantation of the entire cornea, often used in the past.
  • Lamellar keratoplasty. In the case of deep dystrophy, several layers of the damaged cornea are removed and replaced by donor tissues or artificial materials.
  • Laser keratoplasty is performed in cases of superficial damage. Degenerated layers are “evaporated” by laser, and new tissues are formed in their place. This is the most advanced modern method.

Complex treatment for corneal dystrophy at Eximer Ophthalmology Clinic.

At first, the cornea is strengthened with collagen cross-linking. This is a machine-assisted procedure and in some cases, it can stabilize the shape of the cornea, strengthen it, and slow down the disease’s progression.

Stromal rings are implanted to improve optical characteristics after cross-linking. This surgery is often performed for keratoconus to stabilize the corneal surface and its refraction.

Keratoplasty is performed with a brand-new femtosecond laser. This attenuated technique provides high results with minimal complications and a short recovery period.

Postoperative period

After the surgery, corneal dystrophy is completely gone, but since the disease is genetic in its nature, there is no complete guarantee of getting rid of it. The earlier the pathology is diagnosed and surgery is performed, the more favorable the prognosis.

After surgery, it is forbidden to lift weights, press on the eyes, strain them at first.

Complications are extremely rare. Inflammations, rejection of donor tissue, and in very rare cases, retinal detachment may occur. However, the untreated disease can lead to complete vision loss, corneal tear, and other unpleasant consequences.


Dystrophy is almost impossible to prevent since the disease is hereditary. The main thing you can do to avoid the pathology:

  • Maintain your body and have a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy. This may prevent possible diseases in the unborn child, including corneal dystrophy.
  • If there are congenital pathologies of the visual organs in your family, you must visit an ophthalmologist 1-2 times a year, starting from childhood. The earlier corneal dystrophy is detected, the better is the treatment outcome.
  • Follow all the instructions of your ophthalmologist if the disease is already developing. In some cases, the process can be controlled for years, and the disease never peaks to the point of total vision loss. Therefore, not only early diagnosis is important, but also the fulfillment of all the treatment considerations.
  • Protect your eyes from injuries, inflammations, infections since their consequences can result in advanced dystrophy.

When the disease is detected, you should pay more attention to your eyes. Follow the rules of wearing contact lenses, choose a healthy diet, and be sure to take vitamins for your eyesight. Ask your doctor about all the details of therapy! Do not self-diagnose and self-treat! At the first suspicion of dystrophy in you or your child, contact an ophthalmologist!

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