There are so many eye diseases. You may experience redness or swelling in the eyes. This may be due to chemosis.

In this article, you will know all about chemosis in humans and animals.

Chemosis – What Is It?

Chemosis is a type of inflammation of the eye. It mainly affects the clear mucous membrane which covers the white outer surface of the eye (sclera) and lines the eyelids. This membrane is called as the “conjunctiva”.

The conjunctiva has the function of lubricating the eye by producing mucus and tears. It also prevents the entry of microorganisms and any potentially harmful substances while protecting the eye.

In this medical condition, the affected area becomes swollen, watery or even gelatinous in appearance. Sometimes the eyeball may look yellowish and slightly shifted backward along with the iris, and hence the patient finds it hard to close the eye.

Overall, chemosis is a sign of eye irritation that can be easily treated.

Symptoms – What Are Its Effects?

When the eyes get irritated they often make it visible by excessive tearing and a watery and puffy appearance. As a sign of eye irritation, chemosis presents the following symptoms:

i) Inflammation and itchiness of the eye, which leads to excessive tearing and a watery appearance of the eyes.

ii) Fluid accumulation in the conjunctiva membrane.

iii) A gelatinous appearance of the conjunctiva membrane.

iv) Swollen and blister-like emergence on the outer surface of the eye.

v) When it happens due to surgery, the blistering appearance occurs with a pinkish discoloration.

vi) The eyeball may appear to have shifted from its original position.

vii) Itchiness of the eye, which may lead to rubbing and aggravate the inflammation.

viii) Difficulty in closing the eye due to severe inflammation.

ix) Blurred or double-vision.

These manifestations vary among people. Some patients may only get a simple inflammation while other may geta lot of them. Seek medical attention immediately if changes in breathing and heart rate, wheezing, intense pain, severe inflammation, swelling of the lips, tongue and throat tissues occur. This set of symptoms may occur due to a severe allergic reaction. Emergency treatment is a must to avoid exposing your life to risk.

Nonetheless, in usual cases, chemosis is a non-contagious condition. It does not suppose a serious harm as long as it is not aggravated by harsh rubbing of the eyes. It can be easily treated with patience and care.

Causes Of Chemosis– Why Does It Happen?

Causes Of Chemosis– Why Does It Happen
Causes Of Chemosis– Why Does It Happen

Chemosis can take place due to a variety of reasons, the most usual ones being allergies, viral & bacterial infections, eye surgeries, hyperthyroidism and constant rubbing. However, any factor inducing eye irritation can lead to chemosis.

The following are some of the most common, and not so common causes of chemosis:

1. Allergies:

Allergic reactions to seasonal changes, pets, dander, pollen, and much more are known to make the eyes watery, red, itchy and even swollen. If you are prone to other allergic reactions like conjunctivitis and angioedema, you should know that these can occur coupled with chemosis and add to the intensity of the symptoms.

2. Infections:

Chemosis caused due to viral and bacterial infections of the eye (also known as conjunctivitis) is very common. The infections may be transmitted by shared objects of personal hygiene or cosmetic products. But chemosis in itself is not contagious. When caused by infections, the symptoms may include blurry vision.

3. Eye Surgeries:

Surgeries of the eye or eyelids are the most frequent cause of chemosis. Its deep treatment becomes compulsory when it lasts more than a few days. The treatment may be achieved by eye drops, cold compresses or temporary eye patching. In severe cases, conjunctivoplasty may be required. It is a minor surgery in which the excessive and sloppy conjunctiva is removed.

It is advisable to consult the surgeon immediately so that they draw a treatment plan as soon as possible.

4. Hyperthyroidism:

In this medical condition, the thyroid gland secretes hormones in excess. This can lead to different types of eye disorders and chemosis is one of them, along with bulging, puffiness and retraction of the eyelids.

5. Rubbing:

Another common cause of chemosis is the constant and excessive rubbing or scratching of the eyes. If you have itchy eyes, remember that rubbing them is not the best thing to do. It is advisable that you find the cause of the itching rather than give in to rubbing because this will be inducing more irritation and damage.

Other Less Common Causes Of Chemosis Include:

i) Dacryocystitis:

Obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct causing infection of the lacrimal sac.

ii) Orbital cellulitis:

An acute infection of the eye socket that causes severe inflammation of the eye tissues.

iii) Acute glaucoma:

A medical emergency in which there is increased pressure in the eye.

iv) Obstruction of the superior vena cava:

It often comes along with facial edema.

v) Cluster headaches:

It is a neurological disorder that gives constant headaches that are often unilateral and surround the eye.

vi) Urticaria:

An allergic reaction that causes dermatological disorders.

vii) Rhabdomyosarcoma of the orbit:

A rare and malignant tumor that can be lethal.

Diagnosis– How Is Chemosis Identified?

When you consult your doctor due to the gravity of the symptoms, they will use the following processes to diagnose the condition:

1. Patient’s anamnesis: 

This will consist of a set of questions regarding the intensity of the itchiness, irritation, pain, watering of the eyes, oozing of fluid and any other symptom; as well as the length and duration of the same. It is also important to let your doctor know about any existing or potential allergies to get the most effective and personalized treatment.

2. Physical examination: 

Which will be done with the use of the specific ophthalmologic instruments by the doctor to take a closer look at the infected area.

3. Biopsy: 

This will be performed only in case the presence of a tumor is suspected.

TREATMENT – What To Do?

The treatment of chemosis is often mild and simple. But if left untreated, chemosis can lead to damage and loss of vision. That is why it is important to give attention to the symptoms and treat them accordingly.

Although the treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the chemosis.

Common Therapy Methods:

1. Cool Compresses:

Applying cooled compresses alleviates the inflammation. Doing this will reduce the swelling as well as the discomfort.

2. Lubricating Eye Drops or Ointments:

The use of lubricating eye drops or ointment on the eye membrane combats the dryness and irritation. This will be prescribed by the doctor in case of mild swelling.

3. Chilled Artificial Steroid Eye Drops:

These will be recommended by the doctor in case of more intense swelling. They decrease the inflammation and help the eye to reduce the bump.

4. Patching / Temporary Tarsorrhaphy:

In cases in which there is difficulty in closing the eye and this leaves it constantly exposed to the ambient, an external help may be required to close it. Eye patches can be used for this. In extreme cases, the specialist may also advise temporary tarsorrhaphy. This consists in partially or completely joining the upper and lower eyelids to help in the closure of the eye. It has the purpose of minimizing exposure and promoting healing.

5. Conjunctivoplasty:

This may be required by a prolonged swelling. It is a minor surgery that consists in a small incision in the conjunctiva and the removal of the excessive, loose membrane. This will be performed under local anesthesia. This treatment is considered especially in cases in which chemosis occurs due to eye or eyelid surgeries.

Chemosis is a condition that takes place due to an underlying, primary cause, and it is important to discover and define what it may be. This gives a scope of usage of the suitable treatment according to each patient.

Specific Treatment According To Patient:

1. Antihistamines:

They are administered orally or topically depending on the symptoms and their severity. These are also used to provide relief from the allergic reactions. They reduce inflammation, itchiness, and excessive tearing.

2. Antibiotics & Probiotics:

These are prescribed in case of bacterial infections which can appear due to excessive rubbing or transmitted due to lack of hygiene. It’s important to consume the antibiotics as long as the doctor specifies it to avoid the recurrence of the infection and the development of resistance by the bacteria.

Antibiotics often require the use of probiotics to maintain the stability of the intestine.

3. Anti-inflammatories:

As their name indicate, these are substances that will bring down the inflammation and provide relief from the overall symptoms. Their administration can be topical or oral.

4. Adrenaline:

It is administered only in case of a severe reaction that requires an emergency treatment to avoid a life threat.

How To Prevent Chemosis?

Chemosis can hardly be prevented when it occurs due to a surgery. However, you can avoid it when it’s due to an allergic reaction by staying away and avoiding contact with the allergens. It is also recommended to maintain a high hygiene and limit the sharing of objects that come in contact with the eyes like towels, handkerchiefs or cosmetic products. This will reduce the risk of contracting and transmitting an infection.

Chemosis In Pets:

Chemosis is not a condition exclusive to humans. Our beloved dogs and cats can also be prey to chemosis.

Very much like in humans, other mammals also have a clear thin membrane called conjunctiva. It surrounds their white outer surface (sclera) and lines the inside of the eyelids all the way to the cornea. Its function is to protect the eyes from the entry of foreign particles, keep them lubricated and help in the healing from any possible injuries.

The swelling of the conjunctiva membrane is known as “conjunctival edema” or “chemosis”. Its inflammation often supposes a reaction to an underlying problem that should be discovered and treated efficiently. Also, if left untreated it can lead to more serious damage and even the loss of vision.

Causes Of Chemosis In Pets:

i) Protein deficiency (hypoproteinemia).

ii) Bacterial infections and fungal infections that can affect the eyes.

iii) Allergy from pollen, dust, insect bites, foods or inhalants that cause reactions like swelling of the eye tissues.

iv) Reactions from exposure to caustic or acidic materials.

v) Mechanical irritation caused by trauma, pollen, dust, foreign bodies or insect bites can lead to rubbing or scratching. This, in turn, makes room for inflammation of the eye and thus chemosis.

vi) Congenital eyelid abnormalities like ectopic cilia, trichiasis, distichiasis or entropion. They occur when the eyelashes or the eyelids turn inwards instead of outwards.

Apart from these, any condition that irritates the eye can cause chemosis. 

Symtoms In Pets – What Are Its Effects?

The symptoms of chemosis in dogs and cats are again similar to those of humans and can affect either one or both of the eyes.

i) Redness, swelling, itchiness and even pain.

ii) Puffy and fluid-filled appearance of the eyelids.

iii) Oozing of clear mucous discharge from the eye. This may contain pus in some cases.

iv) In severe conditions, there can be loss of function and the vision gets altered.

v) If the animal has been affected for a long time, it may present pigment and hair loss. Dry flakes and small pimples can also appear on the skin that covers the eyelid.

vi) Sometimes, the hair gets erected in several patches over the body.

vii) Cause-characteristic symptoms may also take place: When the chemosis happens due to a viral infection, it causes dry eyes and difficulty in production of tears. In case of bacterial infections, a yellow-green discharge might be produced.

Irritation and inflammation of the eye can make the animal to blink or squint repeatedly. It can also try to rub or scratch its face, especially the affected area. It is important to consider that constant rubbing can worsen the inflammation and prolong it. Also, it can deepen the trauma of the eye tissue.

Diagnosis In Pets – Identification

Diagnosis of chemosis in animals is done by the veterinarian. They physically examine the eye to decide which is the most appropriate treatment and its extent. A Schirmer tear test might be done to examine and collect the tear secretion, and further determine the presence of allergic reactions to different agents (mites, bacteria, fungi, dust). A biopsy will be conducted if a tumor is suspected. Blood tests are done in cases where the reasons can’t be easily determined.

Treatments For Pets – What To Do?

The treatment of chemosis usually includes:

i) Apply warm compresses several times daily.

ii) Flushing the affected eye with water 3-4 times a day for the removal of any foreign agents that might be present in the eye.

iii) Use of drops or ointments to combat bacterial infections.

iv) Intake of dietary supplements to compensate the nutritional deficiencies.

v) Use of antihistamines for the alleviation of allergic reactions and removal of the allergen from the environment.

vi) Oral administration of anti-inflammatories or pain relievers in case of severe pain.

vii) Topical use of corticosteroids for treatment of insect bites, only after prescription.

viii) Surgery is opted in cases in which tumors and eye abnormalities are the cause.

ix) If there are no causes determined, an immunosuppressant might be recommended to mitigate the inflammation.

x) In cases in which the problem can’t be cured, the supply of medication would be continued to suppress the symptoms of chemosis.

Always remember that every case and every pet needs a different treatment according to the underlying cause. Using an inadequate treatment may worsen its conditions as well as make it irreparable. That’s why the best option is to consult the veterinary, get the required tests done and follow the instructions of the treatment.

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