If you’ve had a leopard gecko for a while, you know that these reptiles are prone to eye infections.
As such, it’s important to understand these infections, particularly their causes, symptoms, and treatments. Fortunately, that’s what we’re going to talk about in this post.
Why are leopard geckos prone to eye infections?
Leopard geckos are prone to eye infections because they have big eyes, particularly in proportion to their heads. While these are adorable, they increase the surface area that is at risk for infection.
Another thing that makes leopard geckos prone to eye infections is the fact that they have movable eyelids, unlike many other reptiles .
The chances of infection go up when your leopard gecko:
- Has congenital issues
- Is a product of non-selective breeding
- Is overhandled
- Lives in an overcrowded tank
- Eats an unbalanced diet
- Lives in a dirty tank
- Is exposed to inappropriate temperatures or humidity levels
The parts of your leopard gecko’s eye that are prone to infection include the cornea and conjunctiva.
Common eye infections in leopard geckos
Some of the most common eye infections in leopard geckos include:
This condition is characterized by the inflammation of the tissue that lines a leopard gecko’s eyelids. The lining is known as conjunctiva and is usually fleshy and pink in color.
This area is prone to bacterial infection, leading to what is known as bacterial conjunctivitis. The main cause of bacterial conjunctivitis is a dirty environment. If left untreated for a long time, this condition can lead to eye loss.
When a leopard gecko has parasites, its eyes can get infected. Some people have even claimed to see thin worms in the eyeballs or conjunctival sacs of their geckos. However, eye issues due to parasitic infection are rare.
Also known as ulcerative keratitis, a corneal ulcer is an inflammation of your leopard gecko’s cornea. This inflammation can cause a hole in the cornea. As such, it is very painful.
Two of the most common causes of a corneal ulcer are a foreign body entering the cornea and trauma to the area. It is usually diagnosed by applying a fluorescent dye or eye stain to the reptile’s eye.
If there is an ulcer in the eye, the dye will stick to it. That’s why your vet will use a black light to check your gecko’s eye after they apply the dye to it.
If they find an ulcer, they will usually prescribe some drops that you’ll have to administer to your leopard gecko regularly.
However, you’ll still have to take your reptile back to the vet after a few weeks so that they can check whether the ulcer is going away.
This is an inflammation of your leopard gecko’s uvea (eye wall). It leads to the accumulation of pus or blood under the cornea – in the anterior chamber. It’s commonly caused by neoplasia, trauma, autoimmune diseases, and post-hibernation diseases.
However, it’s usually easy to identify the primary cause of this inflammation. If left untreated, uveitis can have serious consequences like permanent loss of vision.
Blepharitis can either be a fungal or bacterial infection. Most times, it develops when bacteria on your leopard gecko’s skin multiply and become too many.
Blepharitis usually makes your gecko’s eyelids itchy, red, and swollen. While it’s not severe, it can lead to other issues like conjunctivitis. If left untreated, it can even lead to eyeball destruction or immunosuppression.
Bacteria living on and in your leopard gecko can multiply and cause subcutaneous abscesses in its eyes. This condition can also be caused by bites or trauma.
Ultimately, it is a painful condition that can only be treated by a vet. Your vet will probably treat these abscesses by removing them surgically – they will also give you painkillers, antibiotics, eye drops, or anti-inflammatories to aid in your reptile’s recovery.
If left untreated, these abscesses can lead to blindness.
Symptoms of eye infections and problems
Common symptoms of eye infections and problems include:
- Eye squinting
- Itchy eyes, leading to rubbing, scratching, and licking
- Eye discharge
- Difficulty opening eyes
- Swollen eye
- Cloudy eye
- Red eyes and eyelids
- Excessive blinking
- Eye bulging under closed eyelids
- Blurred vision
- Excessive tear production
- Cornea dryness
- Difficulty closing eyes and moving them
How to treat eye infections
Since many eye infections can attack your leopard gecko, only a vet can accurately diagnose your reptile and treat them.
The best that you can do is flush out any foreign body you see trying to enter your Leo’s eye using saline. But the minute you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms in your leopard gecko, it’s time to see a vet.
Once you’re at the vet’s, they will do a physical exam, after which they may prescribe surgery or medication in the form of eyedrops.
They may also prescribe painkillers or anti-inflammatories to ease your Leo’s discomfort.
How to prevent eye infections
To maintain your leopard gecko’s eye health and prevent infections, you should:
- Regularly clean your leopard gecko’s tank
- Learn how to handle your leopard gecko properly to avoid overhandling or manhandling
- Maintain appropriate tank temperature, lighting, and humidity conditions
- Provide clean water and substrate
- Remove sharp objects from the tank
- Provide a balanced diet and the required supplements
- Choose a suitable substrate – a smooth one that doesn’t easily enter your leopard gecko’s eyes
- Provide a humidity hide box and surfaces that your gecko can rub against when shedding
Other types of eye problems
Apart from infections, leopard geckos face other eye problems like:
Vitamin A deficiency
When your leopard gecko has a vitamin A deficiency, it will lose its appetite, its skin will change color, and it may even develop shedding issues.
In time, it will also make your leopard gecko squint its eyes, produce excessive tears, and form abscesses. Sometimes, it can even cause dry eyes.
Ultimately, this can cause eye bulging, corneal fibrosis, and even blindness.
That’s why it’s important to provide your leopard gecko with sufficient vitamin A – 5,000 to 10,000 IU/kg is best.
However, consistently providing more than 50,000 IU/kg is dangerous. It can cause issues like dry and flaky skin.
Foreign body in the eye
When a foreign body gets into your leopard gecko’s eye, it can get stuck in its conjunctival fornices and injure them.
This can lead to infections and other eye problems. When a foreign object enters your gecko’s eyes, they will try to remove it by blinking and increasing the production of eye secretions.
However, you can also help them out by flushing out the particles using saline.
Also, remember to take your leopard gecko to the vet immediately if you notice signs of abrasion or ulceration. Two of the most common foreign bodies to enter leopard gecko eyes are dust and loose substrate like sand.
Eye trauma in leopard geckos usually happens as a result of fights or falling on sharp objects.
Sharp substrates like ground walnut shells, peat moss, and sand are particularly known to cause this. Signs of eye trauma include eye scratches and bruises around the eyes.
When leopard geckos struggle with shedding their skin, they can retain the skin around their eyes.
This can lead to keratin accumulation in the conjunctival sac, leading to eye irritation. If this is not dealt with early, things can get worse and even result in cornea damage.
While eye proptosis isn’t common in leopard geckos, it is one of the most severe eye problems. It is characterized by your gecko’s eyeballs bulging out of their sockets. It usually happens when your reptile is squeezed hard.
Leopard geckos can go blind because of congenital issues or some of the above-mentioned issues.
As long as a vet treats the underlying health issues that caused your leopard gecko’s blindness, it can learn to live with it for the rest of its life.
All you need to know is that you’ll have to help it catch fast-moving feeder insects like crickets.
While leopard geckos are prone to eye infections and other issues, there are some things you can do to prevent them for as long as possible.
And if your reptile still gets an infection anyway, rest assured that your vet can handle the situation adequately and get your pet patched up in no time.