(CBS SF) – We certainly hear about people suffering from glaucoma. Is glaucoma a problem for dogs and cats, too?

“Yes it is,” summed up Dr. Jack Aldridge, Director of Veterinary Services at the San Francisco SPCA. “Unfortunately, it’s one of those conditions that’s tough to recognize in the important early stages – before permanent damage occurs.”

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“Glaucoma is increased pressure of the clear fluid, called aqueous humor, within the eye,” explained Aldridge. “This fluid maintains the shape of the eye and nourishes the inside tissues. A balance of fluid production and drainage keeps normal pressure inside the eye but with glaucoma the drain becomes clogged so the pressure in the eye builds and if this pressure in the eye is elevated for more than a day or two the optic nerve or retina can be permanently damaged, often leading to blindness or even loss of an eye.”

In terms of recognizing this, what are the signs?

“Glaucoma usually begins in one eye and the signs are generally rather subtle and can include a cloudy cornea or red or bloodshot appearance to the eye, and then signs of pain such as a squinty eye and general decreased activity and irritability,” said Aldridge. “Now, your veterinarian makes the diagnosis the same way we do in humans, by measuring the intraocular pressures with a small handheld instrument.

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Treatment options?

“There are drops and pills that help decrease fluid production or increase drainage from the eye and surgery can be performed to control the production of fluid but the most important point to remember is that acute glaucoma is a legitimate emergency and an immediate referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist is always best,” Aldridge stressed.

KCBS’ Jeff Bell Reports:

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