The conjunctiva is the pink tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelids and covers the white portion of the eyeball (sclera). It is a protective layer that contains special glands that secrete a component of the tear film that helps maintain normal eye health. Conjunctivitis is a condition where the conjunctiva becomes reddened, congested, and painful. It may occur in one or both eyes and has a variety of causes. These include foreign matter, chemicals, pollen, dust, bacteria, viruses, and environmental irritants like smoke.
Other causes may be due to systemic diseases or allergic reactions. The conjunctiva of a sensitive animal can massively swell after an insect sting/bite on any part of the body. Allergies to food and the environment can also cause swelling and redness. Conjunctivitis may lead to, or be a sign of, corneal ulcers (abrasions of the cornea), eye infections, corneal scarring, corneal vascularization, corneal mineralization, corneal sequestrum (primarily in cats), conjunctival adhesions, nasolacrimal blockage (blockage of normal tear ﬂow), and keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye).
Important Points in Treatment
- Laboratory tests, including blood tests, conjunctival scrapings and cultures may be needed to help determine the cause and an effective treatment, especially if there is no readily apparent cause on examination.
- Attempts should be made to prevent further irritation to your pet’s eyes from such things as contaminated water, soap, shampoo, dust, air sprays, scented candles, smoke, (self-) trauma, etc.
- The medical treatment for conjunctivitis may involve intermittent or occasionally life-long use of topical and/or oral medications depending on the underlying cause. Treatment is designed to stop inflammation and minimize progression and recurrence of the disease process. Medications may also reverse some of the damage already done. Life-long topical medications rarely give rise to complications and generally improve your pet’s quality of life. Your doctor will discuss any relevant potential side-effects of prescribed treatments with you.
- Some types of conjunctivitis require more systemic or specialized treatment, such as dermatologic treatment for systemic and/or food allergies.
Your awareness of your pet’s symptoms and compliance with recommendations for medication and recheck examinations will help control these potential complications. Notify the doctor if any of the following occur:
- The condition appears to worsen (the eyes appear redder, the cornea looks cloudy, the eye(s) look larger, the third eyelid is raised, there is more or worse ocular discharge, etc.)
- You are unable to apply medication as directed
- Your pet shows continued or worsening signs of pain or discomfort (i.e. squinting, sleeping more, lack of appetite, change in attitude, etc.)
If you have any further questions or concerns regarding conjunctivitis or any other ocular condition, please do not hesitate to call us at Eye Care for Animals.
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