Nictitans Gland Prolapse – “Cherry Eye”
WHAT IS NICTITANS GLAND PROLAPSE?
A nictitans gland prolapse is an abnormal “flipping out” of the tear gland located at the base of the third eyelid (nictitans). This tear gland is responsible for one-third to one-half of the tears needed to lubricate the eyes.
WHAT CAUSES A NICTITANS GLAND PROLAPSE?
The exact cause of this condition is unknown. It is believed that there is a weakness of the ligament that holds the gland in place. The gland is therefore free to flip up and out of its normal position. Nictitans gland prolapse often affects both eyes although the second gland may prolapse several months after the first.
ARE CERTAIN BREEDS PRONE TO DEVELOPING NICTITANS GLAND PROLAPSE?
Yes. The American Cocker Spaniel, English Bulldogs, Lhasa Apso, and giant breeds are prone to nictitans prolapse, although many other breeds may be affected as well. The condition has also been described in cats, especially Burmese cats. Nictitans gland prolapse usually occurs in young animals less than 1 year of age.
HOW CAN I RECOGNIZE THAT MY PET HAS NICTITANS GLAND PROLAPSE?
Most pet owners will notice a pink lump on the nasal corner of the affected eye. Frequently, this lump will disappear and reappear without treatment before it finally remains in the abnormal position.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
Untreated prolapsed glands may become inflamed, cause tearing and obstruct vision. Simple gland excision may cause dry eye, especially in breeds predisposed to dry eye such as the Cocker Spaniel, English Bulldog, and other small dog breeds. For this reason, the recommended treatment is surgical replacement of the gland into its normal position rather than excision.
ARE THERE ANY COMPLICATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH NICTITANS GLAND PROLAPSE SURGERY?
Surgery is most likely to be successful if it is done soon after the gland prolapses. With time, prolonged swelling of the gland can make repositioning more difficult. Few patients have recurrent gland prolapse after surgery. A repeat surgery is recommended. Nictitans swelling and ocular discharge is common for 5 to 7 days after surgery.