Corneal lipidosis or lipid deposit in the cornea of rabbits
Esther van Praag, Ph.D.
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Corneal lipidosis - also called corneal dystrophy or lipid keratopathy - is a condition where excess lipids (usually cholesterol esters) or minerals (calcium) are deposited under the surface of the cornea. The infiltration usually starts at the edge of the cornea and can be observed in the anterior stroma, the epithelial basement membrane and the epithelium.
Corneal lipidosis is not associated to a disease; it is not breed or gender dependent.
A lipid rich diet and/or trauma are the main causes for lipid deposits into the cornea. Congenital factors cannot be ruled out.
Clinical signs and diagnosis
It is based on a complete ophthalmic examination and a discussion with the owner about the food fed to the rabbit.
Both eyes are usually affected (bilateral) but not necessarily to the same degree. Unilateral lipidosis has rarely been reported. The fat deposits, which usually start near the third eyelid, can be opaque, raised, subtle and pale, bright white, silver or grey colored areas. Vascularization is observed in the affected part of the cornea. While the cornea is mainly affected, fat deposits have also been noted in the lens, iris and ciliary body of a Dutch rabbit. Often it is accompanied by macrophage invasion. An inflammatory process has been observed, but does not always seem to be present.
Unlike in dogs, corneal lipidosis is associated to gradual loss of vision in rabbits. If the deposit is severe, it can lead to ulceration of the cornea.
There is no pain associated to this condition.
There is no medical therapy available, other than bring modification to the diet. Fatty food and milk-based products (cheese, butter, and yogurt) should be discontinued.
It is not known if superficial keratotomy can help.
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