Cataracts in Cats
The lens of the eye in a healthy cat will be transparent to allow light to reach the retina. Rarely, however, a cat will develop a spot on one or both lenses that is opaque. That spot is a cataract. It appears as a white spot, or a spot resembling crushed ice. (See photo above.)
Because cataracts are opaque, they prevent light from passing through the lens to the retina and thus impair the cat’s vision. They can grow over time and can become large enough to cause blindness.
Cataracts can develop for several reasons, including:
- Eye injury or trauma
- Advancing age
- Other eye diseases or infections
- Diabetes mellitus
- Genetic factors
- Poor nutrition
- Exposure to radiation
- Overexposure to ultraviolet light
Cataracts can occur in one or both eyes and are diagnosed by visual examination of the eye. While many older cats can appear to have a clouding of the lens, this is most often due to nuclear sclerosis, a normal part of the aging process that does not significantly impair the cat’s vision. No treatment is recommended for nuclear sclerosis. Cataracts in cats remain rare.
If you cat is diagnosed with a cataract, it does not necessarily mean your cat’s vision is in peril. Some cataracts remain small, or grow slowly. Others are more aggressive and will require treatment to prevent substantial vision loss or blindness in the affected eye.
The only treatment for cataracts is surgery by a veterinary ophthalmologist. The defective lens is removed (cataract extraction) and replaced with an artificial lens. The artificial lens is needed to focus light coming into the eye onto the retina. After cataract surgery, the cat can see well again.
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