Is Your Cat Giving You Glaucoma?

Cat allergens might be linked to glaucoma.

According to a study by the American Journal of Ophthalmology, your cat is increasing your risk of developing glaucoma.

This knowledge goes against a lot of what we know about owning animals. Pets are praised for being good for your mental health.

In fact, merely petting an animal can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case for cat owners. Owning a cat is linked to Toxoplasmosis and the eye disorder, glaucoma. So, if you’re considered the “crazy cat lady” in your neighborhood, you might want to pay heed.


What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disorder that occurs when the nerve connecting the eye to the brain becomes damaged. Unlike most eye disorders, glaucoma gradually occurs over time, so it doesn’t usually show up until later in life. Some researchers speculate that it’s inherited, while others suggest that it can be induced by outside risk factors, like owning a cat.

Glaucoma typically occurs when there’s a buildup of pressure in the eye. The pressure is called intraocular pressure, which in turn, damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting images from the eye to the brain.

Most people with glaucoma don’t suffer from symptoms or pain from the increased pressure, so a lot of the time it goes undiagnosed and causes more harm than if it were treated early. Untreated glaucoma can cause permanent blindness within a few years.

How Does Pressure Rise In the Eye?

As we mentioned earlier, glaucoma is caused by an increase of pressure in the eye. This pressure increase occurs when eye fluid doesn’t circulate properly and makes its way to the front part of the eye.

The fluid is called aqueous humor, and when it functions properly, it flows through a netted channel throughout the eye. If the channel gets blocked, it leads to fluid build-up, causing glaucoma.

A lot of the time, the direct cause of the blockage is unknown. However, researchers discovered why certain animals, like cats and cockroaches, can lead to the eye disorder.

How Are Cats Linked to Glaucoma?

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles have found that people diagnosed with glaucoma have a high level of “immunoglobulin E.”

Immunoglobulin e. is a type of antibody that’s produced when you have an allergic reaction to cats and cockroaches.

The researchers at the University of California studied a pool of 1,678 people in their 50s and 60s. The participants were tested for allergies to mites, cats, dogs, cockroaches, and rodents. They also noted if participants had used steroids, since it’s also linked to glaucoma.

About 5% of the participants were diagnosed with glaucoma. Out of this population, 14% had increased levels of IgE to cats and 19% to cockroaches. On the other hand, only 10% of the participants without glaucoma had higher levels of IgE for cats or cockroaches.

They tested the IgE levels for other allergens, like dogs and hay fever, which weren’t associated with the development of the eye disorder. The researchers believe that allergens from cats and cockroaches have properties that induce antibodies that target the optic nerve.

On the other hand, dog owners were 20% less likely to develop glaucoma, most likely because dogs spend more time outside, so their owners tend to stay more active.

So, maybe owning a cat won’t cause you to go blind. However, if you’re allergic to cats, it might increase your risk. It should also be noted that they didn’t look at the different types of glaucoma to gauge which are linked to IgE levels. Another thing to take into consideration is that reactions to multiple types of allergens could also affect antibody levels.

Does Laser Surgery Treat Glaucoma?

Once diagnosed, there are a lot of ways patients can go about treatment options, depending on the type of glaucoma. One of the more popular methods is through laser surgery. When it comes to treating open-angle glaucoma, laser surgery only takes about 10-15 minutes. The laser helps make subtle changes in the eye’s drainage system, so it no longer builds pressure by storing fluid. Learn more about our glaucoma treatments at Maple Eye and Laser Center.

Detect and Treat Glaucoma Before It’s Too Late

One of the easiest ways to avoid blindness from glaucoma is by making it to your eye doctor for routine Ophthalmology appointments. At Maple Eye and Laser Center, our White Plains and Manhattan locations will test for glaucoma, so you can diagnose and treat it, before it’s too late. If you’re having vision problems or haven’t gone to the eye doctor in a long time, schedule and appointment today at 914-948-5157.