Eye Issues in Leopard Geckos

Such problems are common in these animals

Leopard gecko eye close-up.
Getty Images/Corey Hochachka

Pet leopard geckos have large, circular eyes that make them very cute, curious looking pets. Unfortunately, they frequently suffer from eye ailments or conditions. Most of these health problems are due either to poor husbandry or to environmental factors that you can control.

It's good to be able to recognize eye issues when—if not before—they develop and take preventive steps to ensure your pet's health.

Why Do Leopard Geckos Have Eye Issues?

Leopard geckos have eyes that are proportionately large for their heads. This is why geckos tend to get things stuck in their eyes, develop abscesses or infections, and have other issues more often than people and other animals. Therefore, it is important to not only be able to recognize a possible eye problem before it is too late but to also provide appropriate care to try and prevent issues from developing.

Foreign Bodies

A foreign body is something in your leopard gecko's eye that shouldn't be there. This could be a piece of gravel or bedding, food, retained skin, or anything else that isn't normally around an eyeball. The item can get stuck or lodged in the eye socket and cause a variety of issues if it's not removed promptly.

Eye Abscesses

The actual eye can get punctured, become infected, or develop an abscess. More commonly, the area directly under the eye swells due to an abscess from a wound that doesn't involve the eyeball.

You'll be able to identify an abscess if you notice a bump under your leopard gecko's eye that has suddenly appeared one day. This abscess could be because of a cricket or mealworm bite or your pet may have scratched itself on a branch or other object in the terrarium. Sometimes geckos that live together can also fight and a wound can cause abscesses to form.

Eye Ulcers

When a foreign body gets stuck in the eye or the eyeball suffers some other trauma, an ulcer may form. This happens when the cornea—the clear outer coating of the eye—is damaged. An ulcer is a hole or tear in the cornea, which can be a small spot or cover the entire eyeball.

Eye ulcers are very painful. If your gecko has an eye ulcer, it may be holding its eye shut, trying to clean the eye with its tongue, or scratching the ulcer with its foot.

Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis is the technical name for pink eye, an inflammation of the pink tissue that surrounds your leopard gecko's eye. This pinkish-red, fleshy part of the eye is called the conjunctiva and bacterial conjunctivitis is most common in leopard geckos.

Leopard geckos can get conjunctivitis from dirty water or any dirty environment that can harbor bacteria. One of the primary causes is a terrarium that hasn't been cleaned well.

Eye Proptosis

Proptosis is probably the worst type of eye issue a leopard gecko can have. However, it's also the least common. Proptosis is when the eyeball actually comes out of the eye socket. Really the only way this can occur to a leopard gecko is if it is squeezed so hard that its eye pops out.

Blindness

Sometimes leopard geckos are born blind due to congenital issues, but other times trauma or other situations can cause blindness. Regardless of the reason, leopard geckos should do just fine without their sight.

You may need to help a blind leopard gecko eat since it could have a difficult time catching moving food such as crickets. Otherwise, a blind gecko can easily live out its life in a regular enclosure without issues.

Treatment

Since leopard geckos can have such a variety of eye issues, treatment will depend on the actual problem. Quite often, these matters are serious and your exotics vet will need to diagnose the issue and prescribe treatment. Sometimes you will need to handle follow-up treatments at home.

Foreign bodies: By using cotton-tipped applicators, saline rinse, and sometimes even eye lubrication, your vet should be able to remove the irritating foreign body from the affected eye. Occasionally, it is so difficult to remove or the leopard gecko won't open up its eye enough that it may be given light sedation, or anesthesia. This will relax your gecko and allow your vet to work more quickly without accidentally damaging the animal's eye.

If you attempt to remove an item from your leopard gecko's eye, be extremely gentle and careful. Try rinsing the eye with saline eye rinse while gently restraining your gecko.

Just be very careful not to hurt your gecko or stress it out enough to cause it to drop its tail, which is also stressful to your pet. If you have any doubts about your ability to do this, it's best to simply take your pet to the vet rather cause any more harm or pain.

Abscesses: Regardless of the reason, your vet will need to drain and clean out an abscess. He may use a scalpel blade or a needle to pop the zit-like abscess and then gently squeeze out the infected material. Depending on how bad the area around the eye is, your vet may send you home with eye drops, pain medications, anti-inflammatories, or antibiotics.

Ulcers: To diagnose an ulcer, your exotics vet will use a special eye stain that will stick to the ulcer on the cornea if one is present. He will then use a black light that causes the stain to light up on the ulcer where you'll be able to see it clearly.

If an ulcer is found, your vet will prescribe special eye drops and your gecko will need to be rechecked in a few weeks to make sure the ulcer is going away. There are unfortunately no home remedies for an eye ulcer.

Pink eye: Because conjunctivitis in leopard geckos is typically caused by bacteria, treatment often requires an antibiotic eye drop or ointment.

Proptosis: If proptosis occurs, the eye usually has to be removed by your exotics vet.

How to Prevent Eye Issues

Being proactive can prevent a number of eye issues and help to keep your leopard gecko safe and healthy.

  • Ensure that you are providing a good, clean environment in the enclosure.
  • Maintain optimal conditions, including temperature, humidity, and light.
  • Clean water and bedding or gravel are important.
  • Ensure the items in the enclosure do not have sharp edges or points that may poke or scratch an eye.
  • Be sure that you are handling your leopard gecko properly.
  • Check that all the skin has been removed from the eyes after shedding.