When your cat’s eyes look swollen, irritated or runny, a number of different things could be causing the symptoms. One common diagnosis is uveitis, which is a general term that describes inflammation of the eye. The term uveitis simply describes the state of inflammation — usually an underlying condition, for instance, a viral, fungal or bacterial infection; an eye injury or scratch; an immune-mediated disease; or even a tumor in the eye, causes uveitis in cats.
“The most common signs of uveitis in cats that pet owners may notice are squinting of the eye, possibly rubbing the eye, redness of the eye, excessive tearing, light sensitivity, cloudiness of the eye and/or a change in the color of the iris (the colored part of the eye),” says Stephanie Beaumont, DVM, Dipl. ACVO, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist at Animal Eye Specialists in Richardson, Texas.
Because so many different things can cause symptoms of uveitis in cats, it’s important to have your cat checked out as soon as possible. If uveitis progresses without treatment, some eye issues may permanently affect your cat’s vision. Uncontrolled uveitis in cats can result in intraocular scarring and other complications, including retinal detachment and glaucoma. Both of these serious conditions can cause blindness.
Using special instruments, your vet will examine your cat’s eye or eyes to try to determine the cause of the inflammation. The vet will also do a complete physical exam, ask you questions about your cat’s lifestyle and living environment, and might want to run bloodwork or other tests, depending on what shows up in the initial exam.
If your vet diagnoses something rare or if she has difficulty identifying an underlying cause for the uveitis, she might refer you to a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. These specialists only diagnose and treat eye disorders. They have specialized equipment and can perform more advanced diagnostic tests (for instance, an ultrasound of the eye).
“Treatment for uveitis in cats includes anti-inflammatory medication to treat the intraocular inflammation (uveitis) and pain medication, as well as treatment of the underlying cause of the uveitis if it is identified,” Dr. Beaumont explains. These medications are usually eye drops or eye ointment, which your vet or a veterinary technician can show you how to apply.
Think back to a time when you had a speck of dirt or something in your eye. It was pretty uncomfortable, right? If your cat’s eyes are runny, watery or swollen, or if your cat is squinting, pawing or rubbing at her eye, it’s very likely that she is experiencing discomfort and is possibly even in pain. “Uveitis tends to be quite painful,” Dr. Beaumont explains. “It is important to seek veterinary care quickly, as the underlying cause of the uveitis may be quite serious and needs to be identified.”
Plus, did you know that uveitis in humans can cause light sensitivity?
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