Symptoms of Glaucoma in Cats

Glaucoma in Cats

Glaucoma in cats is an eye condition where there is increased pressure within the eye, known as intraocular pressure. The eye produces a fluid called aqueous humor that nourishes the eye. In glaucoma, the drainage of this fluid is impaired, causing a buildup of pressure that can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss or even blindness if left untreated.

Glaucoma in Cats

The Cause of Glaucoma in Cats

There are two main types of glaucoma in cats: primary and secondary. Primary glaucoma, also known as congenital glaucoma, is often an inherited condition where a cat is born with a defect in the eye’s drainage system. Secondary glaucoma can develop due to other eye conditions, injuries, or medications. Either type can lead to a dangerous increase in eye pressure if not properly managed.

Some common symptoms of glaucoma in cats include:

  • Squinting or frequent blinking
  • Rubbing or pawing at the eye
  • Redness of the white part of the eye
  • Dilated or misshapen pupils
  • Vision loss or blindness

If you notice any of these signs in your cat, it’s important to have their eyes examined by a vet as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis and to discuss treatment options before permanent damage occurs. The earlier glaucoma is caught, the better the chances of slowing or preventing vision loss.

The main goals of treatment are to reduce eye pressure and prevent further vision loss. Common options include:

  • Eye drops to reduce fluid production and increase drainage
  • Oral or injectable medications
  • Laser treatment or cryotherapy to improve drainage
  • Surgery to create a new drainage channel for fluid
  • Removal of the eye (enucleation) in severe, end-stage cases
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With proper treatment and monitoring, glaucoma can often be managed well in cats to provide years of vision and eye health. But diligent follow-up care and medication is required to keep this chronic condition under control.

Symptoms of Glaucoma in Cats

Glaucoma is known as the “silent thief of sight” because most cats show no obvious symptoms in the early stages. As the disease progresses, you may notice some of these signs in your cat:

1. Vision Problems

Your cat’s vision may become impaired over time as the pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve. At first, they may have trouble seeing clearly in low light or at night. They may bump into furniture or seem hesitant in unfamiliar areas. As more vision is lost, they may struggle to see objects right in front of them or have trouble finding treats, toys or even their food bowl.

2. Dilated Pupils

The pupils in your cat’s eyes may become very dilated, even in bright light. The high pressure in the eye prevents the pupils from constricting properly. The enlarged pupils give your cat an appearance of staring.

3. Red or Bloodshot Eyes

The whites of your cat’s eyes may become red or bloodshot. This is caused by the rupturing of small blood vessels in the eye due to the increased pressure. The eyes may also seem swollen or protruding.

4. Squinting

Your cat may squint frequently or seem unable to open their eyes fully. The pressure and pain in the eyes can make squinting more comfortable for your cat. They may also rub or paw at their eyes.

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As glaucoma progresses, your cat is likely in significant discomfort and pain. Catching and treating glaucoma early is critical to preventing permanent vision loss and maintaining your cat’s quality of life. If you notice any symptoms of glaucoma in your cat, consult your vet immediately for an eye pressure check and treatment. With early diagnosis and proper management, it is often possible to slow or halt further vision loss and relieve discomfort.

Diagnosing Glaucoma in Cats

Diagnosing glaucoma in cats can be challenging because they often do not show obvious symptoms until the condition has significantly progressed. As a pet owner, it’s important to be proactive by taking your cat in for regular vet checkups where eye pressure and eye health can be properly assessed.

Early detection of glaucoma is critical to preventing vision loss and damage. At routine visits, your vet will test your cat’s intraocular pressure (IOP) using a tonometer, a device that measures the pressure within the eye. Normal IOP for cats ranges from 10 to 25 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Consistently high readings could indicate glaucoma.

Your vet may also do several other tests to check for glaucoma, including:

  • Gonioscopy: Using a special lens to examine the eye’s drainage angle for any blockages or abnormalities. Blocked or narrow angles can lead to increased IOP.
  • Pachymetry: Measuring the cornea’s thickness, which can affect IOP readings. Thicker corneas may produce falsely high pressure readings.
  • Retinoscopy: Examining the retina and optic nerve for signs of damage from high IOP, such as cupping of the optic nerve head.
  • Visual field testing: Detecting any loss of peripheral or central vision which can occur with glaucoma progression.
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If your cat’s test results show increased IOP, changes in the drainage angle, optic nerve damage or vision loss, glaucoma can be diagnosed. The earlier it’s caught, the better your vet can develop an effective treatment plan to help prevent significant vision loss and maintain your cat’s quality of life. Monitoring IOP, medication, surgery or a combination of treatments may be recommended depending on the severity.

With proactive wellness care, glaucoma in cats can be managed. Be sure to schedule regular vet exams, especially as your cat ages, to monitor for any signs of this serious eye disease. Early detection and treatment are the keys to your cat’s vision health.

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