Ophthalmic Abnormalities in Stranded Sea Turtles from the Mid-Atlantic United States
The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Program has been involved with long term sea turtle rehabilitation since 1999. This report focuses on six sea turtles (1 Kemps ridley and 5 loggerheads) that presented with ophthalmic abnormalities ranging from mild to severe. We will discuss the management of these cases that demonstrate the variability of ophthalmic abnormalities and the successful treatments we employed.
Three of the cases, which involved a corneal ulceration and 2 corneal perforations, were deemed releasable following non-invasive treatments. A fourth case, that presented with bilateral granulomatous conjunctivitis of parasitic origin, is currently undergoing treatment and will likely be releasable. The case of corneal ulceration resolved rapidly with topical medications. Treatment of the corneal perforations included topical medications accompanied by medicated baths, systemic anti-fungal agents and antibiotics. The case of granulomatous conjunctivitis is presently being treated with topical and systemic antibiotics. Two severe cases, a traumatically induced ventral deviation of an eye and skull fracture and a case of bilateral cataracts, required surgical intervention. The trauma case required surgical remodeling to streamline the skull profile. Post surgery, the turtle exhibited normal foraging behavior and normal vision in the deviated eye, precluding the need for ophthalmic surgery. In a case of functional blindness due to bilateral cataracts, cataract extraction by phacoemulsification was performed. This surgery restored vision and resulted in a releasable turtle. These case studies demonstrate the importance of thorough ophthalmic examinations for live stranded sea turtles.