If you have noticed your cat's eyes have started to cloud over, this may be a sign that your cat is developing cataracts. Here, our Monroe vets discuss cataracts in cats including the causes, signs, and treatment options.
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:
- Trauma to the eye
- Inflammation within the eye
- Genetic or hereditary factors
- Metabolic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
- Radiation exposure
- Nutritional imbalances
- 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 Feline Cataracts
In many cats, cataracts can be detected early in their development, during their routine physical exam. You may not be able to see the signs of cataracts at home, because cataracts have not yet progressed to the point that they are affecting the cat’s vision.
It is important to note that not all hazy eyes are caused by cataracts. As cats age, the lens often develops 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 ocular surgery involves breaking down and removing the cataract (a process known as phacoemulsification), then replacing the lens of the eye with an artificial lens.
If your cat has significant inflammation within the eye, cataract surgery may not be an option. There are no medications at this time that can dissolve cataracts or slow their progression. This means that cataracts will persist. Fortunately, cataracts are not painful and cats typically adjust well to blindness.
In cats with untreated cataracts, medications such as corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops are used to decrease the inflammation within the eye. Even though these medications will not affect the actual cataract, it is important to control inflammation to prevent glaucoma (a potential complication of cataracts and inflammation of the eye). Glaucoma does not respond well to medical treatment and often requires the removal of the eye; therefore, 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. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.