Pet Corneal Lipid Dystrophy

Corneal lipid dystrophy/degeneration is a disease that results in the formation of white opacities of the cornea.

What are the clinical signs of corneal lipid dystrophy/degeneration?

In corneal lipid dystrophy, the lesions tend to present as circular, white lesions that form in the central cornea. The degree of opacity is limited, and they tend not to progress. Corneal lipid dystrophy rarely causes a notable decrease in vision or becomes painful. Corneal lipid degeneration develops as white lesions of varying size and location. Corneal lipid degeneration is typically more opaque. Corneal lipid degeneration can progress to the point of obstructing vision or resulting in continual ulceration of the overlying corneal tissue. In these cases, redness of the conjunctiva, squinting, ocular discharge, and obvious cavitation of the cornea are noted. Complications associated with corneal lipid degeneration commonly manifest in older patients but can develop in middle age and rarely in young dogs.


What are the causes of corneal lipid dystrophy/degeneration?

Corneal lipid dystrophy is a primary disease of the metabolism of the corneal cells. Breeds that commonly develop corneal lipid dystrophy include Cocker spaniels, English springer spaniels, dachshunds, and Siberian huskies, but any breed could develop this condition. Corneal lipid degeneration develops secondary to underlying conditions. Causes of corneal lipid degeneration include chronic corneal ulceration, hormonal abnormalities (especially hypothyroidism and diabetes), chronic topical steroid use, and changes in corneal cell metabolism associated with aging.

What are the treatments for corneal lipid dystrophy/degeneration?

Since corneal lipid dystrophy is self-limiting and mild, treatment is usually not indicated. Milder forms of corneal lipid degeneration can be treated with topical medications in an attempt to halt the progress of lipid deposition. In cases in which the lipid has progressed to the point of affecting vision or causing pain, surgical removal of the affected cornea via a keratectomy can be performed. Typically, a low-fat diet is recommended.