Turtle Eye Diseases: Types, Symptoms, Prevention and Cure

turtle eye diseases

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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For humans, diagnosing a disease is very easy as we can talk and share our problems. For animals, it is actually very tough to properly diagnose a disease. We have to depend on the visual signs from different organs of the animal to diagnose the cause of the sickness. For turtles, eyes are the most dependable way to figure out if a turtle is sick or not. In this article, I am going to talk about different types of turtle eye diseases, how to spot them, their prevention and lastly, the cure.

The eyes and ears of turtles vary from species to species. In some species, the eyes are round and big wherein other species have sleek eyes. The eyes act as a looking glass into a turtle’s health.

There are mainly two types of turtle eye diseases: swollen eyes and eye infection. Swollen eyes can make the turtle blind permanently. As a result, the turtle can’t feed itself properly and lead to starvation.

Eye infections are caused mostly by bacteria. It can occur on its own or in conjunction with the swollen eyes. As bacteria can quickly travel from organ to organ and nasal pipes, if untreated, the eye infection can lead to serious infection on the respiratory tract.

Let’s learn more about this two types of turtle eye diseases.

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Swollen Eyes:

turtle swollen eyes

If you find your turtle’s eyes puffy, swollen or closed, it can be suffering from swollen eyes. Swollen eyes is actually a pretty common health issue among turtles. If you are a pet turtle owner, you must learn how to deal with this health issue.

What causes swollen eyes?

  • If the problem is in one eye only, then chances are that it occurred from a physical injury. The injury can either be self-inflicted or from poking of the other turtles. if there is any sharp object inside the turtle habitat, it can scratch the turtle eye too.
  • If both of the eyes are affected and swollen, then chances are that it is a health issue and you need to dive more to find out the root of the problem.
  • Poor water quality is one of the most common reasons for turtle’s swollen eyes. It is seen that water that contains a higher concentration of chlorine can cause puffiness to turtle eyes.
  • Deficiency of vitamin A is also responsible for turtle’s swollen eyes. If your turtle is not having a proper diet with a complete nutrition profile, it can suffer from various health issues including swollen eyes.

Symptoms of Swollen eyes:

  • At the first stage, the eyelids will be slightly puffier than normal.
  • The conjunctiva, as well as the orbital glands, will show sign of redness
  • In severe cases, the puffiness can become so serious that the turtle won’t be able to open its eyes. In other words, the turtle will turn blind.
  • You will often see the turtle weeping (liquid secretion from the eyes). Also, dead cells may gather around the eyes.
  • The nose can get blocked too.
  • In severe cases, the turtle can’t see due to puffiness. So, it will reduce eating and lose a significant amount of weight.


The swollen eyes is a serious problem for turtles which need to be addressed by a professional reptile vet. The treatment is very sensitive and beyond the ability of an average turtle keeper.

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The vet will first look for signs of swelling in glands such as the Harderian glands. If there is signs of that, then the obvious cause of the swelling is vitamin A deficiency which is caused by an improper diet. In such cases, the vet may give an immediate vitamin A dose to the turtle to improve the condition. He will also give advice on proper diet for turtles to the turtle owner.

Other possible causes of swollen eyes are a bacterial infection, infection in the respiratory tract, sand getting trapped in the eyelids, trauma and so on. A vet who is professionally trained for reptiles will check for all these causes, in turn, to find out the root problem of the puffiness.

A professionally trained vet will also perform a full body examination to point out the root of the swollen eyes.


For getting medicine to cure turtle’s swollen eyes, you need to consult with a professional vet. He can prescribe a proper medicine depending on the condition of the sickness and the cause behind it.

You can also check out zoo med turtle eye drops. However, before applying it, consult with a vet to be absolutely sure.

Before applying any type of medicine, make sure that the medicine doesn’t contain any type of steroids. Also, keep the turtle dry for about half an hour after applying the medicine. Then return it back to the main tank or quarantine tank. Make sure the water is properly clean and safe for the turtle.


  • Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most common causes behind turtle swollen eyes. So, you can prevent it by giving your turtle a proper diet. I have seen many owners only give their turtles a commercial pellet. While commercial pellets are good, they shouldn’t form 100% of the turtle’s diet. You should also give it proper leafy vegetables, calcium and other minerals that are necessary for the healthy growth of a turtle. To know more about how to feed your turtle properly, click here. You can use vitamin A drops or doses but I don’t recommend them.
  • The second common cause for swollen eyes is poor water quality. Water quality can get poor for a different number of reasons. The most common reason is having a poor filtration system. If the filter can’t cope up with the load of the tank, the water quality will degrade eventually. That’s why I always recommend getting a professional high power canister filter for turtle tank, such as the Aquatop cf500uv. You can also check out a list of my personal favorite canister filters here. Another reason for poor water quality is less space. Turtles need very large swimming place. A general rule of thumb is, 10 gallons of water for per inch of shell length. If there is a lack of space inside the tank, then the water quality will degrade very quickly.
  • If you observe that the water is having a reaction to your turtle’s eyes, then test the water for level of chlorine. If there is an excessive amount of chlorine, then use a dechlorinate immediately to reduce its amount.
  • Frequent water changes ensure the water quality of a turtle tank. So, change the water regularly to keep your turtle tank healthy.
  • The last preventive step to take is to ensure that there is no sharp object inside the tank that can leave a scratch on the turtle’s eyes. If there is, remove those from the tank immediately. Also, if you are having multiple turtles in a tank and they are hostile to each other, then you should separate them before anything bad happens due to a serious fight.
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Eye infections:

turtle eye infection

Eye infections are very serious for turtles and proper steps should be taken immediately for curing this. Always remember that eye infections are always issues that are originated in the eye itself. The infection can also occur in other parts of the body and later manifest itself into the eyes.

Causes of eye infections:

  • If you observe the turtle is facing eye problems and the diet you provide is nutritionally balanced as well as there is no chance of getting scratch on the eyes, then chances are that the turtle is suffering from bacterial eye infections. Eye infections are generally caused by bacteria. Eye infection can manifest from infections in other organs of the body such as the respiratory tract.
  • To properly diagnose the eye disease, you need to go to the vet. The vet will sample the mucus from the turtle’s eyes and perform various tests on it. Once the tests are done, the vet can then say what is actually causing the bacterial eye infection.
  • Various types of bacteria can be responsible for eye infection such as Pseudomonas and Aeromonas. Only the vet can properly tell which bacteria is causing it after a proper diagnosis. If left untreated for a long time, eye infection can lead to more serious health issues like septicemia and eventually kill the turtle.
  • Dirty water is another common cause for the eye infection. Dirty water can contain thousands of types of bacteria. Any of them can cause the infection in the eye.

Symptoms of eye infection:

  • The conjunctiva, as well as the tissues surrounding it, will get red.
  • The eye will get swollen or watery
  • The turtle will frequently try to scratch or rub its eyes.
  • Often wheezing
  • Losing balance while swimming
  • Fluid secretion from mouth, nose or eye etc.


It is not possible to cure eye infection by an average turtle owner. You need to get help from a professionally trained reptile vet. The vet will use a systematic antibiotic to treat the infection.

While treating the eye infection, the habitat of the turtle needs to be properly optimized. Keep the water absolutely fresh and clean. Also ensure that the habitat has every basic requirement for a turtle such as basking place, heat lamp, basking area etc.

It is better to keep the turtle in a quarantine tank until it is properly cured. You can also use verified eye medicines for turtles, but of course under the approval of a vet. Make sure that the medicine doesn’t contain any steroids before applying it.


For treating the eye infection, you’ll need a systematic and proper antibiotic. Only an authorized vet can provide these. You can also use other meds, but ensure they are approved by your vet and contains no steroid.

After applying the medicine, keep your turtle dry for about half an hour. Then, release it to the tank. It is better to keep your turtle in a quarantine tank while it is being treated for eye infection.


  • The first thing to do for preventing eye infection is keeping the water in the turtle tank absolutely fresh and clean. Water is the number one way by which bacteria enters into a turtle’s body. If the water is dirty, thousands of bad bacteria will habitat it and eventually enter into the turtle’s body.
  • Install a suitable high power canister filter in the tank. Ensure that the filter can cope up with the load of the tank. Choose a high power canister filter that can take ammonia and other harmful chemicals from the water column efficiently. Get a water test kit and check your turtle tank’s water. The ammonia and nitrite level of the water should be zero. If it is more than that, then you need to replace your filter with a more efficient one.
  • Perform 50% water change weekly. Water change is the most efficient way to keep balance in the water parameters.
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Some other turtle eye diseases:

Here are some other uncommon types of turtle eye disease:

Bloody eyes:

If you see sudden blood in your turtle’s eyes, then chances are that it is suffering from bloody eyes. There is nothing much you can do to cure it except helping the turtle to clean the eye. You can also apply eye medicine in the eye, but make sure that it is approved by a reptile trained vet.

In most of the cases, bloody eyes heal on its own if the turtle habitat is properly set up and the water is clean. However, you can visit the vet for properly diagnosing and curing your turtle. Generally, bloody eyes heal within a week or two without any side effects.

So, this is my detailed guide on causes, cure, and prevention of different types of turtle eye disease. In most of the cases, it is better to seek the help of a professional vet rather than doing anything on your own. Turtles are very sensitive animals. So, never do anything or try out any medicine before being absolutely sure. Always consult with your vet before taking any kind of measure.

Let me know if you have any question in the comment box below!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. Why is my turtle’s eye swollen?

A. Turtle’s eyes can get swollen due to a number of reasons such as deficiency of vitamin A, dirty water, physical injury etc. The cause can be properly pinpointed after a thorough diagnosis.

Q. How to cure turtle’s swollen eyes?

A. It is not possible for an average turtle keeper to cure turtle’s swollen eyes. You need to seek the help of a professional reptile vet. The vet will do a thorough diagnosis and based on the result treat the turtle with proper medications.

Q. Medicine for swollen turtle eyes?

A. Only an authorized vet can prescribe medicine for turtle’s swollen eyes. You can try out zoo med turtle eye drop. However, it is recommended to consult with a vet beforehand.

Q. How to cure turtle eye infection?

A. It is not recommended to cure turtle’s eye infection on your own. Take the help of a professional vet. He will prescribe a systematic antibiotic depending on the degree of the infection.

Q. Medicine for turtle’s eye infection?

A. For turtle’s eye infection, you need to apply a systematic antibiotic. Only a professional vet can prescribe such a medicine. You can also use other turtle eye medicines only after getting approval from a vet.

Q. What turtle eye infection drop should I use?

A. It solely depends on the degree of your turtle’s infection. It is better not to take that decision on your own. Ask a professional vet and he will recommend you a drop after checking the total health condition of your turtle.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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