Cloudy Eyes in Senior Cats: What to Watch For

High Eye Pressures

Does your grandma have glaucoma? You might be surprised to learn that your cat can develop it, too.

Glaucoma is caused by an increase in pressure within the eye. It occurs when the eye is unable to properly drain the fluid in its front part. The fluid buildup puts pressure on the optic nerve and can cause partial or complete blindness if left untreated. One or both eyes can be affected.

Cats can develop primary or secondary glaucoma. The primary form of the disease is rare and most often seen in Burmese or Siamese cats, almost always in both eyes. Secondary glaucoma is more common and often happens when a severe eye inflammation causes fluid to build up and block the eye’s drainage ducts. We most often see this type of glaucoma in middle-age or senior cats.

Usually the signs of glaucoma are subtle and progressive. You may notice that one or both of your cat's eyes are gradually becoming cloudy and may start to look enlarged. Glaucoma is extremely painful, so your cat may cry out or become unusually clingy.

These signs can go on for weeks or months without being noticed, but sometimes glaucoma progresses more quickly. If your cat is squinting and her eye is cloudy and looks enlarged, consider it an emergency. A cat with an acute case of glaucoma can lose her eyesight within 48 hours if the condition isn’t treated right away, and damage that occurs before treatment isn’t reversible. Glaucoma can’t be cured, but medication can help relieve the pain and reduce pressure.

Spotting Trouble

Any time your cat’s eyes cloud up, your veterinarian should examine him sooner rather than later. Other signs to watch for include redness, discharge, tearing, squinting, pawing at the eye, swelling, crustiness or itchiness around the eye; an eye that seems unusually soft or firm; a bulging or sunken eye; and loss of vision. When it comes to eye problems, “Let’s just watch it for a while” isn’t the way to go. Remember, treatment is most successful when problems are caught early.

Many eye disorders in cats can be treated with drops or ointments prescribed by your veterinarian. She can show you the best way to get them into your cat’s eyes with the least amount of distress for both of you.


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