Prolapsed gland of the third eyelid or “cherry eye” is the most common disorder of the third eyelid. It is most common in puppies and usually results from weakness in the connective tissue attachments that hold the gland in place. This weakness allows the gland, which is normally located behind the third eyelid to ﬂip up and become visible. The prolapsed gland will appear as a smooth, pink to red mass protruding at the lower inner corner of the eye. This condition can be present in one or both eyes.
The gland of the third eyelid significantly contributes to tear production. Therefore, if this condition is left uncorrected chronic conjunctivitis (inﬂammation of pink tissue around the eye), discharge, and low tear production can occur. Low tear production can lead to corneal scarring, ulcerations, vascularization (blood vessels in the cornea), or ocular rupture. Some of these conditions can lead to blindness.
Surgical repositioning of the gland is recommended as the treatment of choice. Removal of the gland is almost never advised as a treatment. Many surgical techniques are used to anchor the gland back in the normal position. Surgical repositioning has a success rate of 90-95% in patients. If your pet has only one gland prolapsed, your doctor may recommend a prophylactic tacking of the other gland.
At the time of discharge, your pet may have the eyelid(s) partially sutured closed to protect the surgery site. If present, they will be removed in 10-14 days after surgery. An Elizabethan or “cone” collar is also placed after surgery and recommended until your pet’s follow-up examination. Limited activity is also recommended postoperatively to decrease the likelihood of gland re-prolapse.
As with any surgical procedure, complications are possible including anesthetic risks. The most common complication following surgical repositioning of the third eyelid gland is re-prolapse of the gland. This is not limited to but most common in the English Bulldog. Additional complications are rare and include conjunctivitis, inﬂammation of the third eyelid, break down of the tissue or suture (wound dehiscence), infections at the surgical site, corneal ulcerations (superficial to deep), or corneal scarring.