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The avian eye comes in three different types, which are flat, globular, and tubular. Some birds’ eyes are in the front of the skull and others are situated on each side of the skull. Some birds have good night vision while others are only good in the daylight. Avian eyes are different from mammals’ eyes in many ways, making examination and treatment a more complicated process than with other animals. In fact, examination of any kind is different with birds because of their ability to fly and their agitation when restrained. In fact, other animals (and people) may get agitated when restrained as well, but with birds it can create so much discomfort that it can be harmful to do so. The veterinarian will usually observe your bird in the cage before manual restraint and will have you hold the bird for most of the examination to reduce undue stress.
Cryptophthalmia, also known as eyelid atresia, is common in birds and is seen most often in cockatiels in clutch mates. This is a serious condition because vision is the most essential of the five senses in birds (sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch). With eyelid atresia, the bird’s eyelid is either missing or too small, causing the eyelids to be fused together. This condition is usually congenital but may also be caused by injury or disease. Treating this condition can be difficult because the skin tends to grow back together after an opening is made. Eyelid atresia can be either complete or incomplete.
The signs that your bird has eyelid atresia are usually pretty obvious right away because they are unable to open that eye all the way or there are no visible eyelids in that eye at all. In some cases, the bird can open their eye slightly, making it possible for them to see, but not very well. Some of the symptoms include:
Congenital - Cockatiels are the most common bird to have eyelid atresia
Diagnosing eyelid atresia seems like it should be simple, but the veterinarian will want to do a complete physical and optical examination to make sure there are no underlying conditions that may have a contributing factor. The veterinarian will first ask you about your bird’s medical history and any abnormal behavior or appetite. Then, your veterinarian will examine your bird while in the cage or carrier to reduce stress, looking for head tilting, ability to follow objects, and whether there is any injury or signs of disease such as redness or discharge.
Most likely, you will be asked to hold your bird while the veterinarian does a complete physical including vital signs, body condition score, and overall health. The veterinarian will also use transillumination and focal illumination to look into your bird’s eyes. Some of the other tools that may be used to examine the eyes include a magnification lens, lacrimal cannula, slit lamp, and an ophthalmoscope. The veterinarian may also do a tonometry exam to check the intraocular pressure, fundic exam, tear test, culture and cytology, ultrasound, and optical tomography. A complete blood count and biochemical analysis will be performed as well.
Treating eyelid atresia is a difficult thing to do because the skin tends to grow back together. However, there are new techniques and technology that can make this procedure more effective.
The surgical removal of the tissue around the eye can be done to provide an opening large enough for your bird to see through in complete cryptophthalmia. Although this surgery is only successful about 40% of the time, some veterinarians believe it is worth it for your bird to be able to see.
After surgery, there are certain kinds of drugs that can help keep the skin from sealing the eye back up. Cortisone ointments or eye drops can be used in this case.
Once you get your bird treated for eyelid atresia, you will have to continue to monitor your bird’s eye carefully for infection. Let the veterinarian know if the skin is growing back over the eye. In addition, evaluate his behavior daily for signs that he is unwell or under stress.
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