Bearded dragons are popular pet lizards known for their calm and friendly temperament. However, eye bulging is a concerning symptom that can indicate an underlying health problem. If your bearded dragon’s eyes appear swollen or are protruding from their head, it’s important to identify the cause and get veterinary care.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Eye bulging in bearded dragons is often caused by trauma, infection, retained eyecaps, irregular calcium levels, or tumors behind the eye.

Veterinary examination is required to diagnose the specific cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover the various causes of eye bulging in bearded dragons, symptoms to look out for, diagnosing the underlying problem, treatment options, home care tips, and how to prevent eye issues from developing.

What Causes Bearded Dragon Eye Bulging?

There are several potential reasons why a bearded dragon’s eyes may appear bulged or swollen. Identifying the underlying cause is important for determining the right treatment approach.

Physical Injury or Trauma

Injuries to the head or eye area can lead to swelling, bruising, and eye bulging in bearded dragons. Hard blows or concussions may result in fluid accumulation behind the eyes. Other physical traumas like scratches to the eye or socket can also trigger inflammation and protrusion.


Bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal eye infections can cause fluid buildup, irritation, and bulging eyes in reptiles. Conjunctivitis and respiratory infections are common culprits. Poor enclosure hygiene may raise infection risks.

Immediate medical treatment is vital at the first signs of an eye infection.

Irregular Calcium Levels and Nutrient Deficiencies

Abnormal calcium metabolism, frequently linked to lack of appropriate UVB light exposure, can lead to swollen eyes in bearded dragons. Vitamin A deficiency may also contribute. Ensuring optimal UVB exposure and a balanced, vitamin/mineral supplemented diet can help prevent this cause of eye bulging.

Retained Spectacles (Eyecaps)

In some cases, baby bearded dragons may fail to properly shed the thin protective spectacles layer that covers the eyes at birth. Retained eyecaps can cause irritation, infection risk, and bulging eyes sometimes accompanied by discharge.

Tumors Behind the Eye

While less common, tumors arising in the eye socket or surrounding facial area can force the eye forward, creating a bulging appearance. Typically other symptoms like vision changes, lack of coordination, appetite issues or facial swellings occur concurrently.

Diagnostic imaging is needed to confirm tumors.

Other Causes

Less frequently, eye bulging may stem from deranged organ function, like kidney or liver disease, genetics issues, or simply normal variation in eye positioning. Consulting an exotic animal veterinarian helps determine whether treatment is required.

Symptoms of Bearded Dragon Eye Bulging

Swollen or Protruding Eyes

One of the most obvious signs of an eye issue in bearded dragons is a bulging or swollen eye. According to Bearded Dragons World, this swelling is caused by either an infection, injury or other irritation behind the eye.

Fluid and inflammation builds up behind the eye, pushing the eye itself forward and causing it to bulge out. In severe cases, the swelling can be severe enough to actually prolapse or pop the eye out of the socket.

Discharge or Crusting Around Eyes

You may also notice some discharge in the corner of your dragon’s eyes or crusty scaling around the eye area. The discharge may be clear, yellow or even tinged red with blood.

According to veterinarian Dr. Sue, owner of Lizard Care Online, the discharge is often a sign of an eye infection. This discharge can lead to matting and crusting of the scales around the eyes.

Swelling or Lumps Around Eyes

Some bearded dragon eye conditions, especially infections, can cause swelling and fluid retention around the eye socket and area surrounding the eye.

You may notice soft, squishy lumps or swelling around the eye, depending on the severity of inflammation. Lumps could indicate an abscess that requires drainage.

Apparent Discomfort or Difficulty Opening Eyes

Bearded dragons experiencing eye issues often show signs of discomfort, such as frequently rubbing the eye against objects in the enclosure.

You may also notice your dragon struggling to fully open its eyes or keeping one or both eyes closed for long periods of time. The discomfort encourages them to keep eyes shut.

Loss of Appetite and Lethargy

Eye infections, swelling, corneal ulcers and other eye problems can cause significant pain and impact quality of life. Your bearded dragon may show symptoms like:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Hiding more than usual
  • Moving less/lethargy

These signs indicate the eye issues are taking a toll. Prompt veterinary attention is crucial to get your dragon relief and prevent worsening.

Diagnosing the Cause of Eye Bulging

Physical Exam and Medical History

When a bearded dragon presents with bulging eyes, the first step is for the veterinarian to perform a thorough physical exam and take a complete medical history. The vet will look for any outward signs of injury, infection, or abnormalities involving the eyes and surrounding structures.

They may also gently manipulate the area around the eyes and head to check for pain, swelling, discharge, or masses. The medical history provides insight into the dragon’s husbandry, diet, previous health issues, recent changes, and any potential trauma that could explain the bulging eyes.

Lab Tests

After the physical exam, the vet may recommend lab tests to help pinpoint the cause of the eye bulging. Common tests include:

  • Complete blood count – checks for anemia, infection, inflammation
  • Biochemistry panel – evaluates organ function, electrolyte balances
  • Urinalysis – screens for indicators of disease
  • Fecal exam – checks for parasites
  • Cultures – identify bacterial or fungal infections

The results of these tests provide important clues to help determine if there is an underlying systemic illness contributing to the ocular issue.

Advanced Imaging

Advanced imaging techniques like x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans are often needed to fully visualize the eyes and surrounding structures. These images allow the vet to look for foreign objects, masses, abscesses, bone fractures, or other abnormalities that could explain the protruding eyes.

For example, an abscess behind the eye could cause it to bulge forward. Imaging also aids in surgical planning if intervention is needed.


In some cases, a biopsy may be indicated to diagnose certain eye diseases or growths. The vet takes a small tissue sample and sends it for microscopic examination. Biopsies help differentiate between benign and malignant masses, identify inflammatory or infectious processes, and guide treatment.

However, biopsies of the eye area are challenging and may not be possible or recommended in all cases.

Treatment for Bearded Dragon Eye Bulging

Addressing Underlying Cause

The first step in treating a bearded dragon’s eye bulging is to identify and address the underlying cause. Some potential causes include:

  • Respiratory infection – Antibiotics may be prescribed to clear up infection.
  • Impaction – Laxatives, hydration therapy, and diet changes can help pass blockages.
  • Enlarged fat pads – Improved diet and increased exercise can reduce fat buildup.
  • Tumors – Surgical removal may be done for accessible tumors.

Eliminating the source of the problem is crucial for resolving eye bulging and preventing recurrence. Blood tests, swabs, x-rays, and other diagnostics help pinpoint the culprit.


Certain medications may provide relief for eye bulging in bearded dragons:

  • Antibiotics – Used for infections causing swelling and bulging.
  • Anti-inflammatories – Reduce inflammation pressing on the eyes.
  • Diuretics – Help reduce fluid buildup behind the eyes.
  • Laxatives – Help pass blockages that put pressure on the eyes.

Medications should be used cautiously under veterinary guidance, as improper use could harm the reptile. Proper dosing and monitoring are essential.


For recurring or severe eye bulging, surgery may be performed, such as:

  • Orbital gland removal – Eliminates problematic fat pads if diet/exercise fails.
  • Mass removal – Takes out accessible tumors or abscesses.
  • Eye reduction – Reshapes bulging eyeballs by removing tissue.
  • Eyelid shortening – Reduces exposed conjunctiva.

Surgery carries risks of infection and eye damage. Success rates vary based on the specific procedure. Full recovery can take weeks, requiring meticulous aftercare.

Home Care and Follow-Up

At-home care after eye bulge treatment focuses on supporting healing and prevention:

  • Housing – Clean, optimal temperature, hide box, substrate for traction.
  • Handling – Gentle; avoid pressure on eyes and head.
  • Medications – Properly administer prescribed drugs.
  • Diet – Nutritious foods and hydration; laxatives if needed.
  • Follow-up vet visits – Monitor progress and watch for recurrence.

With attentive home care and follow-up, many bearded dragons fully recover from eye bulging. However, the condition may return if underlying factors like obesity or infection are not properly controlled.

Caring for Your Bearded Dragon at Home

Providing Optimal Habitat Conditions

Providing the ideal habitat for your bearded dragon is crucial for their health and wellbeing. The enclosure should be at least 4 feet long and 2 feet wide for an adult dragon. Use reptile-safe substrates like newspaper, paper towels, or reptile carpets. Never use sand, as it can cause impaction.

Install climbing accessories like logs and branches. Maintain a basking spot between 95-110°F and a cool side around 80°F. The lighting schedule should be 10-14 hours of light and darkness. Investing in a proper UVB and heat lamp is vital.

Ensuring Proper Diet and Hydration

Feed your dragon a balanced diet according to their age group. Young dragons need more protein while adults require more vegetables. Offer a mix of insects like crickets, mealworms, dubia roaches with leafy greens, squash, bell peppers daily.

Dust insects with calcium powder 2-3 times per week and a multivitamin 1-2 times weekly. Always provide fresh, clean water in a shallow bowl changed daily. Dehydration can quickly lead to eye issues like sunken eyes. Proper hydration supports eye health.

Keeping the Eyes Clean

Gently clean around your bearded dragon’s eyes daily using a soft, damp cloth or cotton swab soaked in warm water or saline solution. Never use soap products as this can irritate their eyes. Look for any discharge or swelling which could indicate infection.

Seek veterinary care if their eyes look abnormal.

Monitor Appetite and Behavior

Keep an eye out for any changes in your dragon’s appetite, energy levels, or behavior. Loss of appetite or lethargy can suggest an underlying health issue requiring veterinary attention. Take note if they start rubbing or scratching at their eyes a lot as this may indicate irritation or infection.

Reach out to an exotic vet if you notice any concerning symptoms.

Follow Vet Recommendations

If your dragon has an eye issue like infection or injury, closely follow your vet’s treatment instructions. This may include prescribed eye drops, ointments, oral medications, or other care recommendations. Restrict handling and carefully monitor the eyes until fully healed.

Never try to treat eye problems yourself without professional guidance. Proper home care and vet follow-ups are crucial for full recovery.

Preventing Eye Issues in Bearded Dragons

Choose Healthy Bearded Dragons

When selecting a new bearded dragon, carefully examine its eyes to ensure they are bright, clear, and free of discharge or swelling. Avoid dragons with sunken eyes or visible problems as they may have underlying health issues. Reputable breeders should guarantee the health of babies they sell.

Consider asking about eye or other health problems in the bloodlines. Select active dragons that are alert and responsive.

Give a Nutritionally Complete Diet

Feed pet bearded dragons a nutritionally balanced diet to support good health and prevent issues like eye infections or swelling. Vegetables, fruits, insects, and calcium supplements should all be included.

Use nutritionally-formulated commercial diets or consult a reptile veterinarian to develop a custom home-prepared diet. Proper nutrition supports immune health to help prevent infections that could spread to the eyes.

Maintain Proper Calcium to Phosphorus Ratios

Juvenile Dragons 1.5-2:1 ratio calcium to phosphorus
Mature Dragons 1.5-2:1 ratio calcium to phosphorus
Egg Laying Females 2-2.5:1 ratio calcium to phosphorus

Imbalanced ratios can lead to metabolic bone disease causing swelling around the eyes, blindness, and other issues. Dust insects daily with calcium supplements and use balanced commercial diets to maintain proper calcium and phosphorus levels.

Provide UVB Lighting

Inadequate UVB radiation can lead to metabolic bone disease and swollen eyes in dragons. Use long fluorescent full spectrum lighting designed specifically for lizards to ensure healthy exposure. Replace bulbs every 6 months when UV output declines.

Allow unfiltered access to bright white light during daytime hours. Natural sunlight through screened windows also provides beneficial rays when available.

Limit Exposure to Injury or Illness

Simple preventative measures greatly reduce the chances of eye infections or trauma in pet reptiles. Disinfect their habitat frequently, wash hands before handling, keep other pets separated, use separate supplies for each dragon, and isolate new dragons for a quarantine period.

Supervising young lizards prevents aggression issues. Avoid compact coils bulbs that can cause eye damage if malfunctioning. Scheduling an annual checkup examines for emerging issues.

Schedule Regular Checkups

Routine wellness exams by an experienced reptile veterinarian are invaluable for monitoring eye health and preventing issues. They can detect subtle changes in eye appearance, infections, pressure issues, incomplete sheds, and other problems before they become advanced.

Diagnosing and treating problems early provides the best outlook for full recovery. Foregoing exams allows progression of potentially treatable conditions into lifelong impairments or blindness.


Eye bulging in bearded dragons should never be ignored. It’s crucial to get an accurate diagnosis from your exotic vet and follow treatment recommendations closely. With proper care at home and follow-up vet visits, many beardies can recover well when eye issues are addressed early.

Providing optimal husbandry and nutrition is key to maintaining good eye health and preventing problems. Monitor your bearded dragon closely and don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet if any eye abnormalities develop.

With prompt veterinary attention and dedicated home care, you can help your bearded dragon get back to full health.

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