In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

January 29, 2019

After Surgery at Mayo Gives Sisters Back Their Vision, They Want to Return the Favor

By In the Loop

Two sisters treated for the eye disease Fuchs' dystrophy are participating in cutting-edge research to help Mayo physicians learn more about why the condition runs in families.

There are many benefits to aging, from senior discounts to increased happiness. (Coincidence? We think not.) But there are some downsides to be seen as well — if you can find your cheaters, that is. As most folks over 40 know, with age comes age-related vision changes. Most are of the frustrating "why-is-that-print-so-small?" variety that often can be easily fixed with a pair of glasses. But some, including Fuchs' dystrophy, are much more serious.

Terri Houle and her sister, Sandra, each have Fuchs, "a swelling of the cornea that causes blurry and foggy vision," KARE-11 TV reports. The condition had progressed to the point that Terri "couldn't read street signs on the road until it was too late to turn," and Sandra "couldn't differentiate once face from another." Then both had surgery at Mayo Clinic. Afterward, "looking outside, everything was so beautiful," Terri tells the station. Her reaction is not unusual, according to Sanjay Patel, M.D. After surgery, many patients describe the results as "seeing in high-definition finally," Dr. Patel, chair of Ophthalmology at Mayo Clinic, tells KARE-11.

Now that Mayo has helped them see more clearly, Terri and Sandra are hoping to return the favor. The sisters are "among the more than 1,000 people participating in cutting-edge Mayo Clinic research" that aims to reveal more about the genetic defects that causes Fuchs', KARE-11 reports.

"We've known for a long time that Fuchs' runs in families," Keith Baratz, M.D., tells KARE-11. While the specific genetic defect was identified about 10 years ago, "for about 25 percent of patients, we're unable to identify the genetic defect," Dr. Baratz, an ophthalmologist at Mayo Clinic, says. "We're still working on that." He and his colleagues are also working to develop new treatments, such as an eye drop, that could replace the need for surgery.

And that's a future we'd like to see.

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Tags: Dr. Keith Baratz, Dr. Sanjay Patel, Fuchs' dystrophy, Ophthalmology, Patient Stories

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