Glaucoma is an eye condition that can develop in cats and, if left untreated, cause blindness. Here, our South Florida vets discuss the causes of glaucoma in cats, the symptoms to recognize, and how you can get it diagnosed and treated.
What is Glaucoma in Cats?
Glaucoma is a painful eye condition that can affect cats as well as humans and other animals.
When your cat's eye is healthy, the pressure within the eye is maintained by an ongoing cycle of fluid production and drainage. Glaucoma is increased pressure on your cat's eye caused by a failure of the eye's drainage system. The increased pressure can then lead to the destruction of the cat's retina and optic disk, where the optic nerve enters the eye.
What Causes Glaucoma in Cats?
Primary glaucoma is typically caused by a problem in how the eye has developed and is very rare in cats although sometimes seen in certain breeds including Siamese, Persian, and Burmese cats. This form of glaucoma usually begins in one eye, but it eventually involves both eyes and leads to complete blindness.
Secondary glaucoma in cats is more common and typically due to uveitis, (which is inflammation inside the eye), or advanced cataracts, tumors, or retinal detachment.
What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma in Cats?
Even though this condition is very painful, cats tend to be very good at hiding symptoms of glaucoma. Subtle signs of pain or illness include hiding, becoming less affectionate than normal and reduced grooming. Other signs of glaucoma in cats can include partially closed eyes, pawing at eyes, watery discharge, obvious swelling or bulging of the eyeball, bloodshot eye, cloudiness of the eye, dilated pupil, or blindness.
Acute glaucoma is a veterinary emergency. If your cat is showing any signs of glaucoma, see an emergency veterinary clinic for proper care immediately.
How is Glaucoma in Cats Diagnosed?
First, your vet will look for common symptoms of the condition. To confirm your cat's diagnosis of glaucoma, your veterinary ophthalmologist will measure the pressures of your cat's eyes.
Can Glaucoma in Cats be Cured?
Sadly, cats can hide signs of pain very well, and the symptoms of glaucoma are often not picked up until the disease has progressed. By the time many cats see a vet they will have lost their eyesight permanently, and treatment will be focused on pain relief.
That said, when diagnosed early treatment may include a combination of surgery and medications to reduce eye pressures, preserve vision, and manage pain.
Eye Drops & Medications to Treat Glaucoma in Cats
Several different eye drops and pills are available to help decrease fluid production or increase fluid drainage from the eye. However, they are not typically effective for controlling glaucoma in long term. These treatments are most often used to help prevent or delay the onset of glaucoma in the remaining eye, and as a temporary treatment until surgery can be performed in the affected eye.
Home remedies are not recommended until your cat has been examined by a professional.
Surgery to Treat Glaucoma in Cats
While surgical treatments are available for glaucoma in cats, the type of surgery will depend on whether your cat still has the potential for vision.
For cats with vision, a veterinary ophthalmologist may be able to reduce the eye's pressure by performing a cryoablation procedure and a drainage implant procedure.
In cats that have already lost their vision, your veterinary specialist may recommend the removal of the eye to relieve the pain caused by glaucoma.