Have you noticed your cat's eyes have started to cloud over? This may be a sign that your cat is developing cataracts in its eyes. Today, our Jackson vets will provide you with information on cataracts in cats and what to look out for.
What Are Cataracts?
A cataract refers to an increase in the opacity of the lens of the eye. The lens, a structure within the eye composed of protein fibers encased within a capsule, is responsible for focusing light on the retina and allowing clear vision.
When a cat starts to develop a cataract, the normally clear lens develops a cloudy or opaque appearance that interferes with the ability of light to reach the retina. Depending on how severe the cataract is, it can have significant impacts on the cat’s vision.
Cataracts can occur in cats of any age, sex, or breed.
Causes of Cataracts in Cats
There are many possible causes of cataracts. Any type of damage to the lens can result in the formation of a cataract.
Causes of cataracts that have been described in cats include the following:
- Inflammation Within The Eye
- Genetic Or Hereditary Factors
- Trauma To The Eye
- Metabolic Diseases, Such As Diabetes Or High Blood Pressure
- Nutritional Imbalances
- Radiation Exposure
- Infections Such As Viral, Bacterial, Fungal, Or Protozoal
The most common cause of cataracts in cats is inflammation within the eye, which is often described as uveitis. Uveitis can lead the body’s immune system to recognize the lens as a foreign material, contributing to the formation of cataracts.
Signs of Cataracts
In many cats, cataracts can be detected at an early stage of development, during a routine medical examination. You might not be able to see the signs of cataracts at home, because cataracts have not yet progressed to the point of affecting the cat's vision.
It's also important to note that not all cloudy eyes are due to cataracts. As cats age, the lens often takes on a cloudy appearance due to an aging change known as nuclear sclerosis or lenticular sclerosis.
Treatment For Cataracts In Cats
The best treatment for cataracts is surgery. This eye surgery involves breaking down and removing the cataract (a process known as phacoemulsification) and then replacing the eye's crystalline lens with an artificial one.
If your cat suffers from severe eye inflammation, cataract surgery may not be an option. There is currently no medication to dissolve cataracts or slow their progression. This means that cataracts will persist. Fortunately, cataracts are not painful, and cats generally adapt well to blindness.
In cats with untreated cataracts, medications such as corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops are used to reduce inflammation in the eye. Although these drugs do not affect the cataract itself, it is important to control inflammation to prevent glaucoma (a potential complication of cataract and eye inflammation).
Glaucoma does not respond well to medical treatment and often requires removal of the eye. This is why medical treatment of feline cataracts is often focused on preventing secondary glaucoma.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.