Bearded dragons are popular pet lizards known for their friendly personalities. However, they can develop various eye problems that require prompt veterinary attention. If you notice your bearded dragon’s eyes looking abnormal, it’s important to understand the potential causes and how to get treatment.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Unhealthy bearded dragon eyes may be caused by issues like eye infections, eye injuries, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, impaction, or improper lighting. Symptoms include swelling, crusting, discharge, redness, or changes in the eye.

See a vet promptly for diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics, supplements, fluid therapy or surgery.

Common Causes of Unhealthy Bearded Dragon Eyes

Bacterial, Fungal, or Parasitic Infections

Some of the most common causes of eye problems in bearded dragons are infections from bacteria, fungi or parasites. Bacterial infections like conjunctivitis (pinkeye) can cause swelling, reddening and discharge from the eyes. Fungal infections may result in cloudy eyes or abnormal coloration.

Parasites like oxspur larvae can damage the cornea and cause vision loss if left untreated. It’s important to identify the cause of infection and use appropriate medications prescribed by an exotic veterinarian to clear it up.

Eye Injuries

Bearded dragons can accidentally injure their eyes in a number of ways – from scratches caused by sharp decor items in the tank, to eye trauma from fighting with cagemates. Injuries can lead to corneal ulcers, hyphema (blood in the eye) and other issues.

Minor injuries may heal on their own, but more serious ones need a vet’s care to prevent lasting damage or blindness. Preventing injuries by removing tank hazards and housing dragons separately when needed is key.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Poor nutrition can be at the root of many eye problems in bearded dragons. Vitamin A deficiency can cause dry, swollen eyes and blindness. Lack of vitamin D leads to metabolic bone disease, which can make eye sockets brittle and prone to fracture.

Insufficient calcium can also contribute to eye issues. Feeding a balanced diet with vegetables, insects and supplements is crucial for ocular health. A vet can recommend supplements if deficiencies are suspected.


Dehydration is a very common problem for pet reptiles. When bearded dragons don’t get enough fluids, their eyes may appear sunken or wrinkled. Severe dehydration can cause the eyes to shrivel. Making sure fresh, clean water is always available is key. The tank should also be misted 1-2 times per day.

Oral rehydration therapy from an exotic vet can help restore fluid levels if dehydration is severe.


Intestinal impaction (constipation) can put pressure on the eyes, causing them to bulge or protrude. This is often accompanied by lethargy, loss of appetite and difficulty passing waste. Impactions are commonly caused by ingesting substrate like sand or wood chips.

Treatment typically involves giving laxatives, administering fluids and manual removal of obstructing material if needed. Preventing impaction is best – by using reptile-safe loose substrate and feeding a high fiber diet.

Improper Heating and Lighting

Bearded dragons require a hot basking area (100-110°F) for proper digestion and eye health. Temperatures that are too low can prevent them from metabolizing nutrients like vitamin A properly. Very high temperatures can lead to dehydration affecting the eyes.

Proper UVB lighting is also essential for vitamin D3 synthesis, which supports ocular health. Using under-tank heating pads, incandescent bulbs, thermometers and Reptisun 10.0 UVB bulbs can help maintain optimal tank conditions.

Symptoms of Abnormal Bearded Dragon Eyes

Swelling Around the Eyes

One of the most common symptoms of an eye issue in bearded dragons is swelling or puffiness around the eyes. This can indicate an infection, injury or other irritation. Mild swelling may just look like slightly puffy or raised scales around the eyes.

More severe swelling can cause the eyes to bulge or even close up due to the puffiness. Swelling is usually a sign of an underlying problem that needs veterinary attention.

Crusting or Discharge in/Around Eyes

Excessive discharge or crusty buildup around the eyes is also a red flag for eye problems in bearded dragons. Normal clear discharge can help keep the eyes lubricated. But thick, discolored or clumpy discharge often signals infection or injury.

This is especially concerning if it causes the lids to stick together. Crusty scales around the eyes can also indicate stuck shed skin or a secondary infection.

Redness and Irritation

If the skin and tissue around the eyes appears red, inflamed or irritated, this can point to an eye issue. Redness, along with symptoms like swelling, discharge and excessive blinking or rubbing, suggests inflammation or infection. Mild redness on its own may just mean minor irritation.

But significant redness warrants an exam to identify the underlying cause.

Bulging Eyes

Eyes that bulge or protrude abnormally usually indicate a serious problem. Possible causes include infection, injury, vitamin A deficiency, parasites, tumors or glaucoma. This is considered an emergency that requires rapid vet attention to prevent permanent eye damage or loss of vision.

Bulging eyes are especially concerning when paired with symptoms like discharge, redness and an inability to retract the eyes.

Cloudiness or Changes in the Eye Itself

Cloudy, foggy or discolored eyes signal issues with the eyeball and structures inside the eye. This can result from infection, cataracts, corneal ulcers, trapped shed skin or eye drops. Catching changes early maximizes the chance of preserving vision. Advanced cases can lead to blindness.

Any change in the eye’s normal clear appearance warrants an urgent vet visit. Bearded dragons rely heavily on keen eyesight for feeding and security.

Getting Veterinary Diagnosis and Treatment

Physical Exam and Medical History

The first step a veterinarian will take is performing a full physical exam on your bearded dragon. They will check for any visible signs of eye problems like swelling, discharge, or abnormalities of the eye itself.

The vet will also ask questions about your dragon’s husbandry and diet to rule out any environmental or nutritional causes of the eye issues.

Some important questions the vet may ask include:

  • What are the enclosure temperatures (basking area, cool side)?
  • What UVB lighting is being used and how old are the bulbs?
  • How often is the enclosure cleaned and disinfected?
  • What is being fed and how often?
  • Any changes in behavior like lethargy or loss of appetite?

Providing as much helpful information will allow the vet to make an informed diagnosis.

Diagnostic Testing

After a thorough physical exam, the veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests to pinpoint the exact cause of the eye issues. Common diagnostics include:

  • Fluorescein eye stain – uses a special dye to detect scratches or ulcers on the eye
  • Tonometry – measures pressure inside the eye to test for glaucoma
  • Blood tests – check for indicators of infection or other systemic illness
  • Culture or cytology – takes a sample of eye discharge to identify bacteria or cell abnormalities
  • Radiographs (X-rays) – used to visualize eye sockets and rule out fractures or foreign objects

These tests provide critical information to create a tailored treatment plan for your pet.

Common Treatment Options

Treatments will depend on the specific cause of your dragon’s unhealthy eyes. But some typical treatment options may include:

  • Antibiotic or antifungal eye drops/ointments – for bacterial or fungal infections of the eye
  • Steroid eye medications – reduces inflammation associated with eye infections or trauma
  • Artificial tears – provides moisture and lubrication for dry eyes
  • Topical vitamin A – promotes healing of the eye in deficiency cases
  • Correcting husbandry issues – adjusting temperatures, light schedules, etc. to reduce stress
  • Surgery – may be done for cataracts, glaucoma, or removal of eye due to injury/infection

Most mild eye issues resolve with medications, but severe cases can result in partial or total vision loss. That’s why it’s key to have your exotic vet fully evaluate any eye abnormalities right away. With quick diagnosis and proper treatment, bearded dragons have an excellent chance of regaining full eye health.

At-Home Care and Prevention Tips

Quarantining New Bearded Dragons

When bringing home a new bearded dragon, it is crucial to quarantine them for at least 30-45 days before introducing them to other reptiles you may have. This allows time to monitor the new dragon for any signs of illness and reduce the chances of infecting your other pets.

Set up a separate enclosure in a quiet area of your home, and be diligent about thoroughly washing hands and changing clothes after interacting with the quarantined dragon.

Maintaining Proper Husbandry

Proper husbandry is key to keeping your bearded dragon healthy and avoiding eye issues. Their enclosure should be large enough, with adequate hiding spots and climbing accessories. The temperature gradient should allow a warm basking area of 95-110°F and a cooler end around 80°F.

Substrate should be reptile-safe like newspaper, tile or reptile carpet. UVB lighting and supplemental calcium are vital. Stick to a consistent day/night cycle of 12-14 hours light and 10-12 hours darkness.

Providing a Nutritious Diet

Make sure your bearded dragon’s diet contains a good variety of vegetables like collard greens, squash, bell peppers, endive and bok choy. Healthy protein sources include crickets, dubia roaches, silkworms and black soldier fly larvae.

Dust insects with calcium/vitamin D3 supplement 2-3 times weekly and feed an appropriate number based on your dragon’s age and size. Avoid feeding too many fatty insects like mealworms as staples. Variety and moderation are key!

Giving Plenty of Clean Water

Dehydration is another potential cause of eye issues in bearded dragons. Provide fresh, clean water at all times in a shallow bowl that won’t tip over easily. Change the water daily. For increased hydration, mist your dragon with water 1-2 times per day or offer water-rich vegetables like cucumber, melon and squash.

Soaking in a warm shallow bath 2-3 times a week for 10-20 minutes can also encourage drinking.

Keeping the Tank and Accessories Clean

Dirty enclosures and accessories can lead to bacterial or fungal infections causing eye problems. Spot clean feces daily and change substrate completely every 4-6 weeks. Disinfect decor and wash water bowls with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly.

Replace substrates like reptile carpets and change climbing accessories to prevent buildup of microorganisms. Providing a clean environment is preventative medicine!


Unhealthy eyes are common but serious issues in bearded dragons. Pay close attention for any eye abnormalities and promptly consult an exotic vet if noted. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment guided by your vet, as well as proper husbandry at home, most eye issues can resolve favorably.

Taking quick action gives your bearded dragon the best chance of regaining healthy eyes and vision.

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