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Corneal Ulceration in Cats

By: Dr. Rhea Morgan

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Related Symptoms or Diseases

Your veterinarian is usually able to diagnose corneal ulceration with a thorough examination and application of a fluorescein dye to your cat's cornea. However, discovering the cause of the ulceration and checking for related ocular abnormalities can be challenging. The following conditions must be investigated as potential causes or effects of the corneal ulcer.

  • Eyelash abnormalities. Extra eyelashes (distichia) and/or misdirected eyelashes (ectopic cilia) are very rare causes of ulcers in cats. They are much more common in the dog. These eyelashes may rub on the cornea and cause ulceration through chronic frictional irritation.

  • Eyelid abnormalities. Rolling in of the eyelid/s (entropion) and/or inability to completely close the eyelids when blinking (lagophthalmos) may cause or exacerbate corneal ulceration. Entropion is uncommon in cats and may be acquired following injury or inflammationor sometimes inherited. Entropion causes eyelashes and or hair from the lids to rub across the cornea and may be associated with corneal ulceration. Lagophthalmos may develop following injury to the nerves responsible for blinking, and may sometimes occur as an inherited problem in cats that have protuberant eyes and/or excessively large eyelid openings.

  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca ("dry-eye"). Inadequate amounts of tear production or a deficiency in any of the many important tear components can cause the surface of the cornea to become more susceptible to infectious agents or to environmental irritation. The tear film is a very important protective mechanism for the eye.

  • Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) is one infectious agent that may cause cause corneal ulceration in the cat. It affects only cats and may sometimes be associated with symptoms of upper respiratory infection.

  • Uveitis is a common complication of serious corneal ulcers. The pain associated with corneal ulcers causes inflammation within the eye. This inflammation is accompanied by the release of substances within the eye and subsequent uveitis. The uveitis usually resolves once appropriate treatment for the ulcer is instituted, but your veterinarian may recommend specific treatment for the uveitis.

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