Did you know that most geckos don’t have eyelids?
That’s right! Many gecko species – including crested geckos, day geckos, and house geckos – can’t close their eyes. They must rely on a nictating membrane (a thin, transparent layer of skin covering the eye) to keep their eyes moist and debris-free.
Leopard geckos, on the other hand, do have true eyelids. This enables them to protect their precious eyeballs from desiccation, debris, and injury.
So, you may be wondering why is your leopard gecko closing his eyes:
Your Leopard Gecko might close their eyes because they’re sleeping or reacting to bright light or low humidity. Leopard geckos also close their eyes when experiencing dehydration, difficulty shedding, debris in the eye, infections, injuries, vitamin deficiency, a deformed eyelid, discomfort somewhere else in the body, or a subcutaneous abscess.
As you can see, there are quite a few reasons why your leopard gecko is closing its eyes. We’ll go through each potential reason for your leo’s closed peepers and discuss other symptoms to keep an eye out for!
13 Reasons Your Leopard Gecko Is Closing His Eyes
Leos close their eyes for lots of different reasons – but why is your leopard gecko closing its eyes? Is it resting, are the lights too bright, or is your little friend suffering from a medical condition?
Hopefully, the following list will help you narrow down the reasons why your leopard gecko is closing its eyes and determine if a veterinary visit is on the agenda.
Reason 1: Sleeping
One reason that your leopard gecko is closing its eyes is because it is having a nap! Unlike their cousins who lack eyelids, leos close their eyes to sleep.
Leopard geckos are nocturnal, meaning that they get most of their rest during the day and spend the nighttime hours hunting, mating, or exploring.
While closing their eyes to sleep is a normal behavior of healthy leopard geckos, there are some circumstances in which closed eyes are a sign that something is amiss with your leo’s health or environment. We’ll talk about those situations next!
Reason 2: Bright Lights
Leopard geckos’ eyes are sensitive, and bright light may be another reason your leopard gecko is closing its eyes.
As you already know, leos are nocturnal, and their eyes have special adaptations that allow them to see in the dark. Vision is made possible by rod and cone cells, found in the retina. Rod cells let us see light, and cone cells enable us to see color.
Leopard geckos have a high number of rod cells in their retinas, allowing them to see quite well in low light. However, this also makes them sensitive to bright light.
Some leopard geckos are more sensitive to light than others. Albino leopard geckos lack melanin, a pigment that absorbs light and helps to protect the cells of the skin or eyes. Without melanin to protect their eyes, albino leos experience an even greater sensitivity to light.
This doesn’t mean your leo should always live in darkness! Leopard geckos may benefit from a UVB light, which promotes strong bones through its role in the production of vitamin D.
Bright light only becomes a problem when your leo can’t escape it. Constant light exposure can cause stress in leopard geckos, which can contribute to illness.
Make sure that your enclosure has plenty of hiding places so that your gecko’s eyes can get a break, especially if your gecko has albinism!
Reason 3: Low Humidity
Leopard geckos shut their eyes to keep them moist. Another reason that your leopard gecko is closing its eyes is because its environment is too dry.
While leopard geckos originate from dry and rocky habitats in Asia and the Middle East, they still require a humidity between 30-40% in captivity to thrive. If the humidity drops lower than 20%, your leopard gecko may experience dehydration or difficulty shedding – both of which can cause eye issues.
If you notice that your leopard gecko is keeping its eyes closed more often than usual, check your hygrometer to ensure the humidity of your enclosure is adequate. Providing a humid hide allows your leopard gecko to self-regulate its humidity. If it needs more moisture, it can relax in the humid hide.
Reason 4: Dehydration
As we discussed, dryness can cause a leopard gecko to close its eyes. If there is not adequate moisture in the gecko’s environment in the form of water or humidity, it may become dehydrated.
Dehydration can lead to a leopard gecko closing its eyes. This condition may also cause your leopard gecko’s eyes to appear “sunken in,” and your leo may be lethargic or have difficulty passing feces.
A dehydrated leo may also have wrinkly skin and shedding problems. Leopard geckos, like other reptiles, secrete a fluid to help separate their new and old layers of skin. If the gecko does not have enough moisture, it may experience a retained shed or dysecdysis. Retained sheds can lead to all sorts of issues, so dehydration should be avoided!
To keep your leopard gecko hydrated, give it access to a clean, shallow water dish at all times. You can also soak your leo twice a week in warm, shallow water for 10-15 minutes at a time. Ensure your gecko’s enclosure has the correct humidity and give your gecko access to a humid hide.
If you suspect your leopard gecko is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian for the best course of treatment.
Reason 5: Dysecdysis
Whenever leopard geckos shed their skin, they must also shed the skin from their eyelids. Sometimes, usually due to low humidity or dehydration, the old skin does not effortlessly fall off, and the gecko may keep the affected eye shut.
The old skin can remain stuck to the eyelid, or it might get wedged underneath the eyelid. When old skin gets stuck under a gecko’s eyelid, it can cause an infection.
Check out the video below, in which a reptile veterinarian discusses this commonly occurring condition in leopard geckos.
If the condition is mild, it can be treated at home! Increase the humidity of your gecko’s enclosure to about 40% or place your pet in a humid hide to aid in the shedding process.
Call your veterinarian if the shed is severely stuck or lodged under the gecko’s eyelid. Never forcefully remove your gecko’s shed – they are very delicate, and you will likely stress or injure your leo!
Reason 6: Debris
Old skin isn’t the only thing that can get stuck in your gecko’s eye. Pieces of substrate or other material from the environment can also cause irritation and make your leopard gecko close its eyes.
In addition to closed eyes, other signs that your leopard gecko may have something in its eye include squinting, watering, or discharge. To avoid additional injury or infection, we recommend taking your leopard gecko to the vet to have its eye flushed out by a professional!
It is likely that your leopard gecko will get debris in its eyes at some point. You can reduce the chances of this occurring by avoiding dusty substrates or sticking to a non-loose substrate like paper towels or non-adhesive shelf liner.
Reason 7: Eye Infection
Another reason you might see your leopard gecko closing its eyes is an eye infection. Eye infections are most frequently caused by bacteria introduced to the eye via debris, injury, or an unclean environment.
Eye infections can cause blepharospasms, or uncontrolled eye movements, like twitching or excessive blinking. Other symptoms of eye infections include inflammation, squinting, swelling, cloudiness, and discharge.
There are several kinds of eye infections. Some of the most common are conjunctivitis, uveitis, and keratitis. If you suspect your leopard gecko has an eye infection, it’s time for a vet visit!
Your veterinarian will be able to determine the type of infection as well as the best course of treatment for your scaly friend.
Reason 8: Injury To The Eye
Even if the eye has not yet become infected, injuries to your leopard gecko’s eyes can also cause the lizard to keep them closed.
Ocular injuries often result from the gecko trying to remove old skin from around its eye, debris, or a confrontation with another leopard gecko. As a reminder, leopard geckos should not cohabitate. Your leopard gecko can also potentially injure itself on sharp objects in its enclosure.
Injuries (or severe infection) can cause ulceration of your gecko’s cornea, which is extremely painful and can cause vision loss.
If you notice your leopard gecko closing its eyes often, incessantly licking its eyes, or exhibiting any symptoms of infection, it may be a sign that it is dealing with an injury. To limit the risk of complications like blindness or loss of the eye, it is imperative that you take your gecko to the vet as soon as you suspect that something is wrong.
Reason 9: Vitamin Deficiency
Another reason that your leopard gecko is closing its eyes is because it may be suffering from hypovitaminosis A, or vitamin A deficiency.
Leopard geckos and other reptiles require vitamin A for the maturation and replacement of skin cells, including those around the eyes. Low vitamin A can cause closed eyes, as well as squinting, swollen eyelids, discharge, inflammation of the cornea, as well as other issues like changes in body color or wounds.
Check out the video below that follows the recovery of Mochi, a rescued leopard gecko suffering from hypovitaminosis A.
Mochi’s severe deficiency was caused by a limited diet and insufficient supplementation, but with proper care, she was able to make a full recovery!
If hypovitaminosis A is not addressed promptly, it can lead to serious long-term issues, including blindness! Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose this condition via a laboratory test and advise you about treatment options.
While vitamin A deficiency can be a frightening thing to think about, it is preventable!
Herbivorous reptiles usually get plenty of vitamin A from their diet, but insectivorous reptiles like leopard geckos are prone to deficiency because their diet is more limited than that of herbivores or omnivores.
You can prevent hypovitaminosis A by maintaining proper temperature, humidity, and lighting in your gecko’s enclosure and by offering a variety of feeder insects. Vitamin A deficiency is also easily prevented by dusting your gecko’s feeder insects with a multivitamin once a week.
Reason 10: Congenital Defect
Another reason you might see your leopard gecko closing its eyes is that some leos naturally have defective eyelids that prevent their eyes from opening and closing properly.
A congenitally malformed eyelid can make your leo more prone to other eye issues, like ulceration or infection, especially if the defect prevents them from closing their eye at all.
Leopard geckos with deformed eyelids can still live full lives, but they may need some extra help from their owners to keep their eyes moisturized and clean.
Reason 11: Discomfort Somewhere Else In The Body
Leopard geckos can’t speak, so they have no way of telling us if they are in pain or where it hurts. However, if you become familiar with their behavior, you can identify what is normal for your leopard gecko and recognize when there is a problem.
A leopard gecko closing its eyes can be a sign that it is experiencing pain or discomfort somewhere in its body – its eyes may be completely fine!
Leos may close their eyes when they have a parasitic infection, impaction, injury, or other condition. Of course, a leopard gecko closing its eyes is not necessarily a symptom of these illnesses, only an indicator that it may be experiencing discomfort.
Once again, if you notice any unusual symptoms like lack of appetite, discoloration, changes in defecation, or lethargy, contact your veterinarian!
Reason 12: Subcutaneous Abscess
Last on our list of reasons a leopard gecko is closing its eyes is something called a subcutaneous abscess. As you may have gathered, a subcutaneous abscess is an abscess of the skin, formed by inflammatory cells, neutrophils (white blood cells), within the skin. Subcutaneous abscesses result from small injuries that become infected.
The easiest way to identify a subcutaneous abscess is the presence of swelling. Abscesses present as raised lumps or nodules on the gecko’s skin. They are pockets of pus, living white blood cells, dead tissue, and bacteria.
Leopard geckos often get these abscesses near their eyes. If the abscess is close enough to the eye, it may prevent it from opening.
Do not attempt to drain a subcutaneous abscess at home! They should be treated by a veterinary professional, who will likely prescribe an antibiotic to keep the infection from recurring.
Reason 13: Protection
Why is your leopard gecko closing its eyes when you pet it or when it eats? It is likely that your gecko is reflexively protecting its eyes from potential danger.
While you would never purposely poke your leo in the eye, your gecko doesn’t know this! Closing its eyes while being pet (especially on its head) is just your gecko’s way of protecting itself.
Why do leopard geckos close their eyes when they eat? To protect their eyes from flailing insects!
Next time your feed your gecko, watch it take down a juicy cricket or mealworm. In the insect’s desperate and futile attempt to escape, it may claw at your leo’s face. To prevent injury, your leopard gecko closes its eyes.
It Probably Isn’t A Sign Of Submission
While many other animals (like cats) close their eyes or break eye contact as a sign of submission, leopard geckos relinquish their dominance in other ways.
Signs of aggression or the establishment of dominance are easy to identify in leopard geckos. An aggressive leopard gecko may wag its tail, hiss, or bite its fellow leopard gecko (or you!).
A gecko at the bottom of the hierarchy is likely to simply avoid the more dominant individual. Geckos show submission by sleeping in a different area of the enclosure and backing away from fights. If your gecko backs away from you, that is a clear sign that it does not want to be bothered.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Close One Eye?
As you have learned, there are many potential reasons why you might see your leopard gecko closing its eyes. While some reasons – sleeping, bright lights, vitamin A deficiency, low humidity, dehydration, or discomfort – will likely cause your gecko to close both eyes, many of the other conditions are more likely to be seen in only one eye.
If your leopard gecko is closing one eye, it may have debris in its eye, an ocular injury, infection, subcutaneous abscess, or congenital abnormality.
While the idea of a winking leopard gecko is adorable, if your gecko “winks” at you, it likely just had something in its eye.
My Leopard Gecko Is Not Opening His Eyes! Should I Be Worried?
Leopard geckos close their eyes for a variety of reasons. Usually, a leo with closed eyes is just taking a nap, and this is no cause for concern! If you notice your leopard gecko closing its eyes for longer than is normal, it is time to start addressing other possibilities.
Is your humidity adequate? Are you using a dusty substrate? Has your leopard gecko had any problems shedding? Are their eyelids swollen? Is there discharge coming from the eyes? Is your leopard gecko closing both eyes, or just one?
Addressing these questions and reviewing the symptoms of the various conditions we have discussed may help you identify why your leopard gecko is keeping their eyes closed.
If you notice your leopard gecko closing its eyes often, or not opening them, but nothing is amiss with your pet’s enclosure or husbandry, it may be worth bringing your leo to the vet for a check-up to rule out serious conditions.
Leopard geckos are endlessly fascinating little creatures, and one could spend years learning about all of their behaviors and mannerisms. Spending some time to learn about why your leopard gecko does what it does is an important part of leo ownership.
Identifying what is normal and understanding the frequency or duration of certain behaviors will not only help you learn your individual gecko’s personality, but it will also make it easier to identify when your little friend is suffering from illness, injury, or other medical condition.
Hopefully, this article helped to shed some light on why your leopard gecko is closing its eyes. As always, consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about your gecko’s health! Don’t forget to check a similar article on why a bearded dragon is closing his eyes, if you’re also a proud owner of a beardie!