The Equine Ophthalmology Service was established at the NC State Veterinary Hospital on October 15, 2001. Dr. Brian Gilger, Professor of Ophthalmology, acts as the Chief of Service. This full-time clinical service is intended to continue to develop new and innovative diagnostic and therapeutic procedures available to our referring veterinarians.
The Equine Ophthalmology Program at NC State University is the only program in the world devoted to the research and treatment of equine ocular disease. Our clinical service accepts patients from the entire east coast. Our clinical and research laboratory has ongoing research projects, with several presentations expected each year at national meetings on ocular or equine health.
The Ophthalmology service at the VH is currently an established center and considered an international leader in the field of equine ophthalmology, particularly in regard to diagnosis and treatment of conditions including:
- Recurrent uveitis
- Corneal ulcer
- Eyelid tumors, including ocular squamous cell carcinoma and periocular sarcoid
Current clinical research protocols are being conducted to investigate the efficacy of cyclosporin implants in the treatment of recurrent uveitis.
What is a veterinary ophthalmologist?
A veterinary ophthalmologist is a board-certified specialist in the treatment of eye disorders in animals. To become eligible for board certification, a veterinarian must devote at least three additional years to specialized training in an approved residency program. The veterinarian's knowledge and skill in their specialty have been recognized and evaluated by a specialty organization sanctioned by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). For ophthalmologists, that organization is the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO).
Why might I need an ophthalmologist?
Veterinary ophthalmologists provide diagnosis and treatment for such eye problems as dry eye, cataracts, glaucoma, inflammation of the eye, tumors, eyelid abnormalities and retinal diseases.
Types of Ocular Disease
Equine recurrent uveitis (also known as moon blindness, iridocyclitis, and periodic ophthalmia) is the most common cause of blindness in this species. Fortunately, recent advances in the treatment of horses with recurrent uveitis have led to the successful management of this disease in some horses. Uveitis refers to inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye. Equine recurrent uveitis is the name used when periodic recurrence of eye inflammation becomes evident. Recurrent uveitis may affect one or both eyes and occurs to varying degrees among horses. Once a horse is affected, the disease will recur at varying intervals, each time causing additional ocular damage leading to permanent changes to the internal structures of the eye.
Cataracts can cause blindness in all age of horses and is caused by the lens of the eye turning white. Cataract removal is very successful in most horses.
These develop when the outer layer (corneal epithelium) of the cornea has been scratched. Although the eye is usually painful, the ulcer generally heals in 2-4 days. However, in some cases, the ulcer may become infected with bacteria or fungus. These severe infections need intensive treatment or even surgery to preserve vision and save the eye. More...
This is the most common cause of chronic cloudiness to the eye, especially when there is no signs of discomfort. A special instrument is needed to measure the increased intraocular pressure typical of this disease. Laser surgery is very beneficial in management of glaucoma. More...
Ocular squamous cell carcinoma and sarcoid are difficult to treat because of the proximity to the eye. Recent advances in medical and surgical treatment of these diseases are currently being used at NCSU.
The Equine Ophthalmology Program focuses its research in two areas: determining the cause of equine recurrent uveitis, and investigating novel methods to treat horses and deilver medications to the eye over a long period of time.
Current Areas of Clinical Investigation
- Understanding risk factors and causes of equine recurrent uveitis, the most common cause of blindness in horses
- Developing enhanced treatment for ocular cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma
- Evaluation of novel medication-delivery systems for the equine eye
- Development of improved surgical techniques for corneal transplantation in the treatment of severe corneal abscesses and other severe corneal diseases
- Understanding corneal healing and the differences in equine corneal diseases compared to other species
- Understanding the development of effective therapies for chronic non-healing corneal ulcers
- Improvement in techniques and surgery for cataract removal in horses including development of the first equine intraocular lens
Current Areas of Basic Science Research
- Understanding the underlying pathology and development of equine recurrent uveitis
- Development of novel medication-delivery systems for the equine eye, which is the largest eye of any terrestrial animal
- Understanding tear film and corneal growth factors, cytokines, and other proteins to develop better methods to manage severe corneal infections
- Evaluation of medication penetration into the equine eye for the treatment of severe infections and cancer
Potential Practical Outcomes
- Greater understanding of the disease progression and new methods to treat equine recurrent uveitis
- Development of practical and effective methods to treat corneal ulcers, the second most common cause of blindness in horses
- Development of methods of treatment of chronic ocular disease that ensures that medication reaches the eye
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