top of page

Do Hormone Conditions Cause Eye Problems?

The various organs that produce hormones in the body
The various organs that produce hormones in the body

Endocrine (hormone) diseases make up a significant percentage of the chronic diseases that veterinarians diagnose and manage. Many of these endocrinopathies (hormone diseases) have serious ocular (eye) signs that may interfere with the quality of life of an animal.

Hormonal diseases are prevalent diseases that typically affect multiple organs, and the eye and its surrounding tissues are often involved in endocrine disorders. Some of the conditions, e.g. diabetes and thyroid gland dysfunction, can cause serious eye pathology and even blindness.

The various methos by which organs are stimulated to release hormones
The various methos by which organs are stimulated to release hormones

A clear understanding of the pathogenesis of these endocrinopathies and their ocular manifestations enhances preventive, therapeutic and management measures to reduce the incidence of sight-threatening complications. Some of the common hormone diseases that are expressed through the eyes are listed below.

Diabetes Mellitus


Diabetes mellitus is a fairly common endocrine (hormone) disorder in dogs and cats. It is commonly seen in middle-aged to older pets, characterized by a relative or absolute insulin deficiency. Diabetes mellitus causes an inability to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells leading to elevated glucose concentrations, and hyperglycaemia. Glucose then gets excreted in the urine, leading to polyuria and polydipsia. Besides, glucose metabolism gets impaired leading to a deterioration in the general condition of the animal and death if untreated. The ocular (eye) conditions that are indirectly caused by this disease include:-

  1. Cataract

  2. Lens-induced uveitis

  3. Peripheral neuropathy

  4. Decreased corneal sensation

  5. Ulceration

  6. Impaired corneal healing

  7. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)

  8. Facial nerve palsy

  9. Horner’ssyndrome

  10. Hyperlipidemia

  11. Lipemia retinalis

  12. Lipemic aqueous humour

  13. Retinopathy

  14. Systemic hypertension

  15. Retinal haemorrhage

  16. Retinal detachment

  17. Hyphema

Hyperadrenocorticism (HAC, Cushing’s disease)


In dogs, Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is a health condition that occurs when the adrenal glands in the animal's body overproduce cortisol (cortisone).

Excess cortisol risks the dog to life-threatening conditions and illnesses, ranging from kidney damage to diabetes. In the dog, Cushing’s disease is caused by a benign or malignant tumour in the pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain or in rare cases the tumour could be located in the adrenal glands, located on top of the kidneys. Iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome is caused by excessive cortisol production stemming from the prolonged use of steroids. The ocular (eye) conditions that are indirectly caused by this disease include:-

  1. Systemic hypertension

  2. Retinal haemorrhage

  3. Retinal detachment

  4. Hyphema

  5. Hyperlipidemia

  6. Corneal lipid deposits

  7. Lipemia retinalis

  8. Lipemic aqueous humour

  9. Pituitary macroadenoma

  10. Blindness

  11. Cranial nerve dysfunction

  12. Oculomotor palsy

  13. Ptosis

  14. Immunosuppression

  15. Opportunistic infections

  16. Keratitis

  17. Uveitis

  18. Endophthalmitis

  19. Ectopic calcification

  20. Band keratopathy

  21. Ulceration

  22. Impaired corneal healing

  23. Facial paralysis

  24. Exposure keratitis

  25. Exophthalmos

  26. Exposure keratitis

  27. SARD

Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’sdisease)


Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison disease) is an uncommon condition in dogs and even more rare in cats. Hypoadrenocorticism is most often caused by immune-mediated destruction of the adrenal glands resulting in decreased mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid production. The ocular (eye) conditions that are indirectly caused by this disease include:-

  1. Hypercalcemia

  2. Metastatic calcification

  3. Band keratopathy

  4. Deposits in the conjunctiva and elsewhere



Pheochromocytoma is a special type of endocrine tumour that arises from the adrenal gland. The cells that give rise to this specific tumour secrete certain hormones called catecholamines that regulate various functions within the body. Tumours typically occur in middle-aged to older dogs. Pheochromocytomas arise from the adrenal medullary chromaffin cells that normally synthesize and secrete the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine. These tumours have been identified more often in dogs than in cats, usually affect only one gland, and tend to occur in older animals. The ocular (eye) conditions that are indirectly caused by this disease include:-

  1. Mydriasis

  2. Systemic hypertension

  3. Retinal haemorrhage

  4. Retinal detachment

  5. Hyphema



Acromegaly is an endocrine disease that leads to elevated production and secretion of growth hormone (GH). It occurs in adult and aged cats and is usually associated with neoplasms, such as functional pituitary macroadenoma of somatotropic cells. In dogs, it is usually related to an increase in serum progesterone that induces the production of growth hormones by the mammary glands. The main clinical signs are related to insulin resistance and the anabolic effect induced by the growth hormone: polyuria, polydipsia, polyphagia, increased tissue growth, weight gain, prognathism, and other changes. The main characteristic findings of canine acromegaly are a visible increase in soft tissue mass, prominent skin folds, abdominal enlargement, and/or radiographic evidence of an increase in soft tissue mass in the orolingual, oropharyngeal, and orolaryngeal regions. Acromegalic dogs almost invariably show some degree of respiratory stridor. The ocular (eye) conditions that are indirectly caused by this disease include:-

  1. Papilledema: swelling of the optic nerve, which connects the eye and brain. This swelling is a reaction to a buildup of pressure in or around the brain that may be due to either a brain tumour or haemorrhage.

  2. Systemic hypertension

  3. Retinal haemorrhage

  4. Retinal detachment

  5. Hyphema

  6. Diabetes(above)

Pituitary dwarfism - Growth hormone deficiency (GHD)


Growth hormone deficiency (GHD), also known as dwarfism or pituitary dwarfism, is a condition caused by insufficient amounts of growth hormone in the body. Panhypopituitarism in young dogs usually results from failure of the pars distalis of the pituitary to develop during gestation. This leads to a deficiency of all the pituitary trophic hormones. Some cases are caused by benign craniopharyngiomas, which lead to subnormal levels of growth hormone. The ocular (eye) conditions that are indirectly caused by this hormone are due to:-

  1. Hypothyroidism (below)



The thyroid gland is one of the most important glands in the body. It is located in the neck near the trachea or windpipe and has two lobes, one on each side of the trachea. The pituitary gland controls the thyroid gland, located at the base of the brain. The thyroid gland regulates the body's metabolic rate. If the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism), the body's metabolism is elevated. If it is underactive (hypothyroidism), the metabolism slows down. The ocular (eye) conditions that are indirectly caused by this disease include:-

  1. Hyperlipidemia

  2. Corneal lipid deposits

  3. Lipemic aqueous humour

  4. Lipemiaretinalis

  5. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)

  6. Peripheral neuropathy

  7. Facial paralysis

  8. Exposure keratitis

  9. Horner’s syndrome

  10. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)



Hyperthyroidism is the condition caused when the thyroid gland produces an excess amount of hormones. Hyperthyroidism is a very serious but relatively rare condition in dogs and typically results from thyroid carcinoma, (an aggressive and fast-growing cancer of the thyroid). The ocular (eye) conditions that are indirectly caused by this disease include:-

  1. Systemic hypertension

  2. —Retinal haemorrhage

  3. —Retinal detachment

  4. —Hyphema

  5. Hypercalcemia

  6. Metastatic calcification

  7. Band keratopathy

  8. Deposits in the conjunctiva and elsewhere



Hypocalcaemia develops when there is a reduction in the bone mobilization of calcium, enhanced skeletal calcium accretion, increased urinary losses of calcium, reduced gastrointestinal absorption of calcium, calcium is translocated intracellularly, or as a result of a combination of these mechanisms. Hypocalcemia is a relatively common abnormality observed in pets with a prevalence of 31% in dogs and 27% in cats. The ocular (eye) conditions that are indirectly caused by this disease include:-

  1. Cataracts

  2. Prolapsed nictitans

  3. Papilloedema

  4. Optic neuritis

  5. Conjunctivitis

  6. Keratitis

  7. Strabismus

  8. Nystagmus

  9. Anisocoria



Hypercalcemia is defined as either an elevation of total serum calcium (tCa) or ionized calcium (iCa) above physiologically normal levels. In dogs, tCa above 12.0 mg/dl or iCa above 1.5 mmol/L qualifies as hypercalcemia, while in cats, tCa above 11.0 mg/dl or iCa above 1.4 mmol/L qualifies as hypercalcemia. Elevated iCa can affect multiple organs, resulting in altered cell membrane permeability and subsequent disturbances in biological functions of the nervous, gastrointestinal, cardiac, and renal systems.

  1. Metastatic calcification

  2. Band keratopathy

  3. Deposits in the conjunctiva and elsewhere.



Plummer, C. E., Specht, A., & Gelatt, K. N. (2007). Ocular manifestations of endocrine disease. Compendium.

Mounirou, B. A. M. (2021). Ocular Manifestations of Endocrine Diseases. Saudi J Med Pharm Sci, 7(11), 584-590.

Anoop, S., Philip, L. M., Ramankutty, S., & Nair, S. S. (2020). Ocular manifestations of endocrine disorders in small animals. Journal of the Indian Veterinary Association, 18, 7-19.

Nowroozzadeh, M. H., Thornton, S., Watson, A., Syed, Z. A., & Razeghinejad, R. (2022). Ocular manifestations of endocrine disorders. Clinical and Experimental Optometry, 105(2), 105-116.

Lemoine, A. N. (1938). Ocular manifestations of endocrine disturbance. Archives of Ophthalmology, 19(2), 184-193.

Costea, C. F. Ocular Manifestations in endocrine diseases.

Kamboj, A., Lause, M., & Kumar, P. (2017). Ophthalmic manifestations of endocrine disorders—endocrinology and the eye. Translational Pediatrics, 6(4), 286.

Buzdugă, C., Turliuc, D., Găleşanu, C., Ciobanu, D., Dimitriu, G., Cucu, A., ... & Costea, C. F. (2016). Ocular manifestations in endocrine diseases. Romanian Journal of Functional & Clinical, Macro-& Microscopical Anatomy & of Anthropology/Revista Româna de Anatomie Functionala si Clinica, Macro si Microscopica si de Antropologie, 15(2).

Van Lanen, K., & Sande, A. (2014). Canine hypoadrenocorticism: pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment. Topics in companion animal medicine, 29(4), 88–95.

Eigenmann J. E. (1984). Acromegaly in the dog. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice, 14(4), 827–836.

Gouvêa, F. N., Pennacchi, C. S., Assaf, N. D., Branco, L. O., Costa, P. B., Dos Reis, P. A., & Borin-Crivellenti, S. (2021). Acromegaly in dogs and cats. Annales d'endocrinologie, 82(2), 107–111.

Schenck, P. A., Chew, D. J., Nagode, L. A., & Rosol, T. J. (2006). Disorders of calcium: hypercalcemia and hypocalcemia. Fluid, electrolyte, and acid-base disorders in small animal practice, 4, 120-94.

50 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page