What are Eyelash Disorders?
Eyelash disorders are not known to be fatal to cats, but the disorder can lead to other eye problems for your furry friend.
Eyelash disorders occur when abnormal eyelash growth causes irritation to the eyes. There are several types of eyelash disorders, and each one can lead to discomfort or damage to the eye and cornea. The conditions are rarely found in cats, but your cat is still at risk of suffering from an eyelash disorder.
Symptoms of Eyelash Disorders in Cats
Your cat will show symptoms of eye irritation or pain regardless of the eyelash disorder. Take your cat to the veterinarian if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Excessive blinking
- Change of iris pigmentation
- Discharge from the eye
- Eyes are red and swollen
- Eyelashes are stiff
- Excessive production of tears
- Irritation of cornea
- Pain of the eye
- Pawing at the eye
- Ulcers on cornea
The three types of eyelash disorders are:
- Distichiasis: occurs when the eyelash grows from the inner rim of the eyelid.
- Ectopic cilia: a condition in which the eyelashes grow from inside the eyelid.
- Trichiasis: occurs when the eyelashes grow in different directions.
All three conditions cause the eyelashes to come into contact with the eye, which can lead to discomfort and pain for your cat.
Causes of Eyelash Disorders in Cats
Eyelash disorders are caused by the hair follicles growing in abnormal spots. This results in the eyelash growing towards the eye and causing irritation to the cornea. It is usually seen in younger cats, but the disorder occurs in older cats as well. The actual cause of the abnormal hair follicle development is unknown.
Diagnosis of Eyelash Disorders in Cats
The first step to diagnosing an eyelash disorder is to keep track of the symptoms your cat is displaying. You may be tempted to look for the abnormal eyelashes on your own, but the best thing you can do is schedule an appointment with the veterinarian.
Expect your veterinarian to ask questions about the symptoms and possibility of allergies. A physical examination is necessary to rule out other conditions and determine the eyelash disorder in your cat.
Your cat may have to undergo further tests to see how much damage has been caused by the eyelash disorder. A Schirmer tear test is done to check the tear production of the eye, and an intraocular eye pressure test checks the fluid pressure in the eye. Your veterinarian may also perform a fluorescein eye stain test to check for ulcers in the cornea.
It is important to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you notice the symptoms of an eyelash disorder. Your veterinarian needs to diagnose and treat the condition before it causes further damage to the eye.
Treatment of Eyelash Disorders in Cats
Treatment is similar for all three eyelash disorders, but may depend on the severity of the case. Your veterinarian can pluck or cut the eyelashes, but surgery may be required to keep the abnormal eyelashes from growing back. The surgery involves removing the eyelashes, roots or glands, and your cat will be given a general anesthesia for the procedure.
Treatment of Distichiasis
Treatment of distichiasis requires plucking the eyelashes, which may grow back in several weeks. The hairs that continue to irritate the eyes may need to be surgically removed at the roots.
Treatment of Ectopic Cilia
Surgery is required for treating ectopic cilia in your cat, and this is done to remove the eyelashes from inside the eyelid. Your cat will more than likely recover well from this procedure.
Treatment of Trichiasis
Your veterinarian will cut the hair to prevent it from coming into contact with the eye. Your cat may need to undergo surgery if suffering from severe trichiasis.
The thought of your four-legged friend undergoing surgery may be nerve-wrecking, but the prognosis is usually good for all three disorders.
Recovery of Eyelash Disorders in Cats
It is important to schedule a follow up appointment after your cat has been treated for their eyelash disorder. There is a chance the eyelashes could grow back in just a few weeks, and your veterinarian may need to schedule surgery to remove the source. If your cat has already had the source surgically removed, your veterinarian will make sure your cat is recovering from the procedure.
You may need to administer prescription eye medication to treat the irritation or damage caused by the disorder. Your veterinarian may also give you instructions for keeping their eyes clean, such as performing an eye wash.
The abnormal eyelashes may grow back unless the source is surgically removed. This is why it is important to take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment and follow up appointments.
Eyelash Disorders Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Can an eyelash disorder in cats occur when they are an adult? I adopted a cat from a homeless man and he said the cat was healthy until he lost it for a month. He has been treated for a URI by my vet, but his eyes continue to appear read and swollen with some discharge. He won't let anyone come close to his eyes even to wash them with saline. You can see his lower eyelashes poking in his eyes.
Usually eyelashes which come into contact with the eye are inherited, but scarring from inflammation, infection or injury may cause an acquired form of entropion. Depending on the severity, eyelashes may be plucked but will usually grow back and will require surgical correction. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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