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Ocular (Eye) Discharge in Cats

By: Dr. Noelle McNabb

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It is important to understand that any source of ocular irritation or pain can cause ocular discharge. Abnormal ocular discharge is not diagnostic of any one disease or disorder. In the simplest sense, ocular discharge represents the response of the eye to an irritation or injury or an inability to drain tears or secretions properly. The exact cause can only be determined by a careful examination and appropriate diagnostic tests.

Observe your pet for any change in eye discharge. A minor amount of eye discharge is normal; however, any change from what is normal for your pet may be significant and is often quite obvious.

Decisive therapy of ocular discharge depends on identifying the exact cause of the symptom. There are numerous possible inciting causes for ocular discharge. It is essential to distinguish a specific cause to provide the appropriate therapy.

Causes

Among the potential causes of ocular discharge are the following disorders:

  • Cilia (eyelash) disorders such as distichiasis, which are eyelashes that grow along the edge of the eyelids and rub on the cornea, and trichiasis, which are lashes on the outer eyelids or face that are long enough to rub the eye

  • Conformational eyelid defects such as inward rolling of the eyelids (entropion), and congenital absence of a portion of the upper eyelid (eyelid agenesis).

  • Inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis) or inflammation of the Meibomian glands within the eyelid margins from an immune-mediated, or a bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection

  • Prolapse (protrusion) of the tear gland of the third eyelid, often referred to as "cherry eye" and rare in the cat

  • Tumors of the external eyelids and third eyelid

  • Deformities or wounds of the third eyelid

  • Inflammation, infection or foreign material within the tear duct drainage system (dacryocystitis) obstructing the drainage of tears away from the eye

  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye syndrome)

  • All forms of conjunctivitis

  • Traumatic scratches, lacerations or ulcerations of the cornea, conjunctiva and eyelids

  • Trauma to the nose, palate or bones of the face around the eye

  • Certain forms of inflammation of the cornea (keratitis)

  • Anterior uveitis, which is inflammation of the iris and surrounding tissues in the front portion of the eye

  • Glaucoma, which is sustained elevation of pressure within the eye

  • Lens luxation or dislocation into the front chamber of the eye

  • Inflammation, infection, trauma, or tumor development in the soft tissues around the eye

  • Infection and abscessation of the roots of the back upper teeth

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