Fungal infection in the eye - A success story!
I realized that this story might be of use to someone now or in the future, so I wanted to share it.
We have a 15-year-old, Appendix Quarter mare that I took up to a boarding stable this summer. We were trying to sell her (too many horses!), so it was my job to ride her out and possibly get some photos and video of her. After I got her there, she developed an infection in her eye. It made her eye somewhat swollen, and a bit cloudy. We've had bacterial infections in horses before, and assumed that's what it was, so we treated it with an antibiotic. It only grew in response. Finally I called the vet, and we took her in to see an equine Opthomologist. They stained it, and took samples for a culture. They said the infection went back 60-70% in her eye (depth). Unfortunately it was found to be a fungal infection, Aspergillus in particular. It's native to soils everywhere, as far as I know, so it was a fluke that it caused an infection. Most likely the mare scratched her eye and it invaded.
Immediately the vet gave us our options. Surgically removing the eye was at the top of the list. With an infection that deep, it was unlikely to be cured, and they didn't want the eye to start melting, if I'm remembering right. We declined. So they gave us a range of topical eye ointments and drops to apply to her eye.
Her treatment included these medications:
- atropine (twice daily)
- an antibacterial liquid (Ofloxacin) (4-6 times daily)- hypertonic saline drops (4-6 times daily)
- plasma drops (2-4 times daily)
- banamine (originally twice daily, but lowered to once a day)
- Silver Sulfadiazine ointment (SSD) (4-6 times daily)
The SSD was the actual fungal treatment. It is actually found in burn creams, and the little tube specifically said "Not for opthomology use".
We treated the mare 4-6 times daily, and applied all of these medical liquids and ointments directly to her eye for over 3 months. For a while, I was doing it in the summer, as I had time. I had a friend take over for me one weekend, so I could visit home, and when I came back I discovered the mare's eye had gotten horribly worse. It went from being a 3-4 mm cloudy circle to an entirely cloudy eye. I was devastated. The vet stated that it could have been caused by the impact from a kick, but this mare is pretty fast on her feet, and so I suspected that my friend just hadn't given her the treatments, or hadn't given them correctly. Either way, it set us back quite a bit. We basically started from square one again. Once school started up, I sent the mare home to my Mom, as I could no longer make 4-6 trips a day out to the barn. During all of this time, I never kept the horse stalled, as it was dustier in her stall and run than it was in the pasture. This particular mare couldn't be kept stalled, either, as she hated being confined, and loves to run.
My Mom is an RN, and asked the Opthomologist about the possibility of changing a horse's body pH, and using that as a way to combat the fungal infection (its done in humans). The Opthomologist had no idea, and hadn't heard of it before. So my Mom insisted on feeding the mare a handful of cranberries 2-3 times a day, along with the other eye applications. We're not sure if it helped or not, but it did make the mare more receptive to the eye treatments! She loved those cranberries!
Slowly but surely, the circular, cloudy patch on her eye grew smaller. Before I took the mare home to my Mom, the vet insisted that we get her a special eye mask, with a plastic covering over the infected eye. We did that, and it prohibited dust from further irritating the eye, and causing further spread of infection. I do believe it helped speed up the recovery process, and kept her from rubbing out the eye ointment. She hated that thing, though she tolerated it at the time.
Eventually my Mom noticed increased vascularization in the eye, and the mare started to get a bit more sensitive towards eye treatments. The vets said this would happen, as the fungus would slough off, and the tissue underneath the fungus would be very sensitive, and it would hurt. When we no longer saw any change in the circumference of the cloudy spot, we took her back in to the Opthomologist to have it reevaluated. Amazingly, the fungal infection was completely cleared up, and the 2 mm cloudy spot was just a scar from the initial scratch! We'd probably been treating a perfectly healthy eye for a few weeks, but we couldn't have known since we lived 3 hours away from the Opthomologist (and no other vets in the area had the equipment to make a positive diagnosis). Thankfully the scar is located right in the middle of her eye, so she has no visual impairments whatsoever.
I was surprised to find out that the SSD ointment was completely experimental on the vets' part. I wish I'd known at the time, but it did do the trick, as long as it was applied 4-6 times daily. We caused quite a buzz amongst the opthomology and pharmiceutical depts, as they thought her recovery was remarkable. Unfortunately I do not have pictures throughout the recovery process, although the vet did document it. I suspect they'll write up something about it, as they were very thorough. I will see if I can get a picture of the scar that's still remaining.
Hopefully this story helps anyone out there dealing with an equine fungal infection in the eye. We were worried sick over this for months, and the daily treatments got old REALLY fast, for us AND the horse! Although the medications and vet visits probably cost just as much the eye removal surgery, we preferred this outcome so much more!
Last edited by TurkishVan; 12-28-2013 at 12:05 PM.