Problems affecting the eyelids may be congenital (present at birth) or may occur as a result of injury, infection, or exposure to various types of irritants.
Abnormalities in the Shape, Outline, or Form of the Eye
Abnormalities in the shape, outline, or form of the eye include entropion (the turning in of the edges of the eyelid so that the eyelashes rub against the eye surface), which occurs more often in Persian cats and other breeds with shortened, flattened heads. Other defects include ectropion (a slack eyelid edge that is turned out, usually with a large notch in the eyelid), lagophthalmos (an inability to fully close the lids and protect the cornea from drying and trauma), and abnormalities of the eyelashes (including extra eyelashes or misdirected eyelashes on the lid edge). Treatment varies with the type and severity of the disorder and may include antibiotics, supportive care, or surgery. (For a more detailed discussion of entropion and ectropion, see Eye Disorders of Dogs: Entropion.)
Occasionally kittens are born with a developmental deformity of the upper eyelid called a coloboma, which appears as a cleft in the eyelid. The defective eyelid is often unable to function properly, leaving the eye is exposed and at risk for inflammation and the development of ulcers unless it is surgically repaired.
Inflammation of the Eyelids (Blepharitis)
Inflammation of the eyelids can result from the spreading of a generalized inflammation of the skin, inflammation of the conjunctiva, local glandular infections, or irritants such as plant oils or sunlight. Fungi, mites, or bacteria can infect the eyelids, which can then lead to a generalized inflammation.
Lesions of immune-mediated diseases can occur where the skin and conjunctiva join. Pemphigus (see Immune Disorders of Cats: Pemphigus) is an example of a disease in which large blisters occur on the skin and mucous membranes. Pemphigus is often accompanied by itching or burning sensations. Skin scrapings, cultures, and biopsies may be required for an accurate diagnosis. Localized glandular infections may be short-term (for example, a stye) or longterm (for example, a meibomian abscess).
When inflammation of the eyelids is caused by a generalized condition, whole-body therapy often is necessary in addition to treatment of the eye itself. Supportive therapy of hot packing and frequent cleansing is often used in severe cases. Your veterinarian will recommend a treatment program designed to control the generalized condition, make your pet more comfortable, and treat the eye condition. Be sure you thoroughly understand the treatment program your veterinarian recommends. Do not hesitate to ask for detailed instructions regarding any eye drops or other medication you will need to provide for your pet. It is often helpful to have the veterinarian demonstrate the administration of these medications.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Kirk N. Gelatt, VMD, DACVO; David G. Baker, DVM, MS, PhD, DACLAM; A. K. Eugster, DVM, PhD