Known Eye Conditions

Droopy Eyes (Bloodhound Eyes):
This could be a sign of acute or chronic kidney failure. In any case, the beardie would need to be seen by a reptile vet as soon as this is noticed, whether on one side or both.

Hypovitaminosis A:
This disorder has become associated with swollen eyes and all too often some vets assume that swollen eyes mean that the beardie has a vitamin A deficiency. The beardie is given vitamin A without the vet doing anything to investigate the cause of the swelling. Since the health problems associated with hypervitaminosis A (overdose of vitamin A) are as bad in their own way as too little vitamin A, the poor beardie's pain and health problems are just made worse.

Early on, there is some swelling of the eyelid, some mild swelling around the iris, and some tearing of the eye in cases of hypovitaminosis A. In addition, there are changes in the orbital glands. As the condition progresses untreated, the swellings become more pronounced and the conjunctiva becomes visible, swollen and reddened. Reptiles that depend on sight to feed can no longer see well enough to feed, and slowly starvation sets in, further weakening the animal.

Along with the necessary correction of the diet and environment, and the administration of vitamin A, the cellular changes in the cells of the eye cause the already stressed beardie into infection. So, the application of a suitable topical antibiotic ointment is recommended. During recovery, artificial tears may also be useful. (Ciprofloxacin and similar opthalmic drops have been recommended over gentamicin drops because of a reported epitheliotoxic (kills epithelial cells) effect of the latter.)

The problems caused by parasites rarely cause any swelling or tearing. Mites find the area around the eye to be quite hospitable. The overall problems caused by mites lead to shedding problems.

Puffed-Out Eyes - Pre-Shed:
This is common in bearded dragons and considered normal for healthy beardies.. As the skin on the eyelids is undergoing the changes associated with getting ready to shed, the beardie will puff out the eyelids when its eyes are closed. These distensions look frightening to the unknowing beardie owner, but they apparently help loosen the old layer of skin, getting it ready to shed.

Later, once the old skin is ready to break and start coming off, beardies will often rub their closed eyes against something in their enclosure or area. This might be to soothe an itch associated with the coming shed, or might be done to help gently break the skin so that the final step in the shedding process. Mist your beardie during pre-shed and shed times to help keep the skin moist and easy to shed.

Swollen/Distended Eyeball:
Swelling of one eye or both may be associated with an infection inside the eye itself, or behind the eye in or behind the socket. If left untreated, it can lead to retinal detachment, blindness or enucleation (removal of the eyeball). This might be due to an increase in intraocular pressure, which is often a sign of infection, injury, or some other health problem. Since the cause cannot be determined by the herp keeper, and appropriate treatments cannot be purchased over-the-counter, the beardie needs to be seen by a reptile vet as soon as possible.

Infections Causing Ocular Changes:
There are a variety of organisms that can cause changes in the eye and surrounding structures (lids, glands, ducts). They include:

Viral infections

Pox virus (generally identified by the appearance of small, white papules on the skin; may be seen earlier in the palpebral integument)

Herpesvirus (generally in conjunction with proliferative and ulcerative skin lesions)

Bacterial infections (Aeromonas, Pseudomonas, Pasturella, Salmonella)

Other Diseases of the Eye:
Other conditions which are not diagnosable or treatable by the herp owner are:

Corneal lesions (caused by accidental injury to the eye, such as rubbing against a rough branch, improperly concealed nail or screw in the enclosure, or scratched by a claw or tooth)

Corneal deposits (lipids, often secondary to an underlying eye or general health problem)

Uveitis (may be related to bacterial infection)

Hypopyon (may be related to bacterial infection)




Primary source of information: Melissa Kaplan's website (

This information should be used only as a reference tool and should not be used in place of vet assistance. My views and opinions are the result of hours of dedicated research. But remember, I am not a professional. If you have a sick beardie and don't know what to do, don't play God, take him to the vet immediately.
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