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Ocular (Eye) Pain and Squinting in Cats

By: Dr. Noelle McNabb

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Squinting and photophobia can affect one or both eyes simultaneously. Sometimes both eyes are squinty even if only one eye is painful. However, the squinting is usually more dramatic in the diseased eye. It is important to monitor pets closely for subtle behavioral changes since it is instinctual for many animals to withdraw and become more reclusive when they are experiencing eye pain or discomfort.

Numerous ophthalmic diseases result in eye pain. Diseases involving the eyelids, cornea, conjunctiva, iris and front chamber of the eye, and orbit result in the most overt symptoms of eye pain. A thorough ophthalmic and physical examination is necessary to determine which diagnostic tests are needed to determine the cause of the pain.

In younger animals, ocular trauma, inherited or congenital defects, and infectious diseases are common causes of eye pain. In older pets, chronic inflammations, immune-mediated and neoplastic (cancerous) diseases may be more common.         

Causes

The following are some of the most important causes of eye pain:

  • Proptosis, or forward displacement of the eye out of the orbit following some sort of trauma

  • Corneal scratches, lacerations and foreign bodies

  • Corneal injuries or infections that result in surface abrasions and ulcers

  • Recurrent or chronic corneal ulcers that arise from healing defects within the cornea

  • Inward rolling of the eyelid margins (entropion), resulting in hair rubbing against the cornea

  • Eyelid injuries and infections

  • Sudden or gradual decline in tear production (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) resulting in drying of the eye

  • Certain forms of inflammation of the cornea (keratitis), especially those that interrupt the top layer of the cornea

  • Conjunctival scratches, lacerations and foreign bodies

  • Exposure of the eye to chemicals, smoke, fire, and other noxious materials

  • Anterior uveitis from a variety of causes (anterior uveitis)

  • Penetrating trauma to the eye

  • Bleeding in to the eye (hyphema)

  • Forward dislocation of the lens (luxation), with the development of acute glaucoma

  • Glaucoma (elevated pressure within the eye), especially when the pressure rise is sudden in onset

  • Orbital diseases, such as orbital inflammation or infection, orbital abscess, nasal infection or disease with extension into the orbit

  • Trauma and fractures to the bones around the eye

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