In a healthy eye, the clear internal fluid — the aqueous humor — maintains the normal shape of the eye and nourishes the inside tissues. A balance of fluid production and drainage keeps the fluid pressure at normal levels.
Glaucoma occurs when the fluid drainage system in the eye becomes clogged, resulting in abnormally high pressure levels. This high pressure causes severe side effects, including damage to the optic nerve and retina, and can lead to blindness and pain.
Glaucoma can be caused by a structural problem within the eye or can result as a secondary problem from another disorder or underlying disease condition.
Acute glaucoma is a legitimate emergency that requires immediate care to save a pet’s sight.
Symptoms & Diagnosis
Glaucoma usually starts in one eye, but frequently progresses to the other eye. Signs are generally subtle at first, and glaucoma can be tough to recognize in its early stages before permanent eye damage occurs. Symptoms can include a cloudy cornea and bloodshot appearance to the eye.
As pressure builds within the eye, glaucoma becomes very painful, and pets often exhibit the following signs:
- A squinty eye, decreased activity, and irritability.
- They may stop eating and resist human touch.
- They may sleep more, avoid bright light, and have trouble seeing.
- Their eye(s) may even appear bulging in later stages.
While glaucoma can’t necessarily be avoided, if diagnosed early enough, it can be managed. To diagnose a pet’s eye condition, we perform a complete history, physical exam, and eye exam.
Additionally, we may recommend the following, depending on a pet’s specific needs:
- A separate visit to a veterinary ophthalmologist, who specializes in eye diseases
- Tonometry, which measures pressure inside of the eye with a small, hand-held instrument
- X-rays or ultrasound of the skull to identify other abnormalities or tumors
- Blood tests to try to determine the underlying cause, such as an infectious disease
If your pet is diagnosed with glaucoma, we will prescribe medications to help reduce the pressure within his eyes and make him more comfortable. Depending on the underlying cause, other medications or treatments may help treat the underlying condition.
Different types of surgical therapy may be recommended in an attempt to keep the pressure in the eye controlled. In long-term cases, surgical removal of the eye may be recommended as a last resort because glaucoma is such a painful condition for your pet.
If your pet exhibits any of the symptoms I described above, give us a call at 206-323-4433 or e-mail us to schedule an exam.