Cat With Cloudy Eyes
Achy joints, hearing loss, deteriorating vision: Getting older is tough on all of us, including our cats. One of the things you may notice as your cat ages is that his brilliant eyes become cloudy or hazy. That can be a normal sign of aging, or it can be a sign of serious disease. Here’s what to look for to catch problems early so they can be treated.  

Hazy Shade of Blue 

We often see cat owners who are concerned that their cats may be developing cataracts because the cats’ eyes look cloudy. More often than not, that blueish haze is lenticular sclerosis, also known as nuclear sclerosis.

This condition is a result of the normal aging of the lens of the eye. New fibers form on the surface of the lens, and the lens starts to lose moisture as the years go by. These changes cause a blueish haze to develop.

We typically see lenticular sclerosis start to appear in cats when they are approximately 10 years old. Unless the cat lives to be very old, this change in the lens doesn’t seem to affect his vision. It’s not painful, and it doesn’t require treatment.

Cats and Cataracts

When the lens of the eye becomes opaque or milky in appearance, it may be a cataract. Cataracts can block light to the retina, causing vision loss or even blindness. Fortunately, cataracts are rare in cats.

The good news is that cataracts aren’t painful and may not impair your cat’s ability to get around the house. Cats usually deal well with vision loss, relying on their hearing and whiskers to move around confidently. If cataracts are causing your cat difficulty, though, a surgeon can remove them. Removing the damaged lens and replacing it with an artificial one can restore or improve the cat’s eyesight. A complete eye exam is necessary beforehand to make sure the eye is otherwise healthy; for instance, if the retina is damaged, cataract surgery won’t improve the cat’s vision.

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.