Understanding Glaucoma In Cats

Glaucoma is a chronic condition that occurs when the fluid in your cat's eyes doesn't drain away efficiently. A build-up of fluid increases the pressure in the eyes and can cause blindness by damaging their optic nerves. There's not always an identifiable reason for cats developing glaucoma, but it can be caused by inflammation, injury and eye disease. Here's what you need to know about glaucoma in cats:


Symptoms of glaucoma in cats can include:

  • Increased blinking
  • Red patches in the whites of the eyes
  • Clouding of the pupils
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vision loss, which may present as clumsiness or your cat losing interest in play


Your vet will diagnose glaucoma by taking details of your cat's symptoms and you should let them know about any recent bumps or other injuries your cat has experienced. They will examine your cat's eyes and use a slit lamp to view each part of the eyes, which can help them identify any other eye conditions. They will also measure the pressure in your cat's eyes using a tonometer, which releases puffs of air into each eye to establish how much pressure has to be applied to flatten the cornea. An eye affected by glaucoma will be more resistant to puffs of air than a healthy eye. You vet may also arrange for your cat to have diagnostic imaging, such as an ultrasound or X-ray, to establish if there's underlying eye disease.


When glaucoma is diagnosed early, drugs that lower the pressure in your cat's eyes are very effective at preventing the condition from worsening, but any loss of vision that's already occurred cannot be restored. Medication can reduce the amount of fluid your cat's eyes produce and encourage drainage of the trapped fluid.

When drugs are ineffective or in severe cases of glaucoma, surgery is indicated. Your veterinary surgeon may use a procedure known as cyclocryotherapy to alter the cells in your cat's eyes responsible for producing fluid. This procedure uses a freezing probe to destroy a large portion of the cells, but it leaves enough intact to prevent your cat's eyes from drying out. Cyclocryotherapy can stop further loss of sight if it's undertaken promptly.

If your cat has completely lost their sight in one eye and the other eye is still healthy, your vet may recommend they have the affected eye removed. This can make your cat more comfortable, but it may also prevent or slow down the development of glaucoma in their other eye. Your vet will then monitor the pressure in your cat's remaining eye on a regular basis to allow prompt treatment with drugs if glaucoma begins to develop or worsen.

If you have specific questions about glaucoma in cats, contact a vet with an animal surgery like Veterinary Specialist Services to learn more about the disease.