Snake Retained Spectacles

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The most common ocular problem of snakes is retained spectacles and is usually associated with dysecdysis. Temporary blindness can result from the serial retention of spectacles and permanent blindness may result from a subsequent secondary infection.

Disease of the spectacle needs to be differentiated from the normal changes that occur prior to ecdysis. Here the spectacle becomes opaque then clear immediately prior to shedding. Retained spectacles result in a raised hardened mass over the spectacle.

For more information on shedding, see Snake Shedding.


Diagnosis of retained spectacles is based on physical examination. Husbandry evaluation may indicate poor environmental conditions, specifically inappropriate humidity.

For more information on physical examinations, see Snake Physical Examination.


The cornea underlying the spectacle is very delicate and attempts to wrench off the retained spectacle with forceps run a high risk rate of damaging the cornea. Prior to any attempts at removing the spectacle the snake should be kept in a high humidity environment for a minimum of 24 hours. During this time artificial tears should be applied several times. This may soften the retained spectacle and allow their removal. Soaking prior to manipulation may further soften the spectacles. Use a moistened cotton-tipped applicator to gently rub from the lateral edges of the retained spectacle inwards. In the majority of cases it will be shed. If not the procedure of softening can be repeated. In some cases it is necessary to wait until the next shed.


Prevention of retained spectacles is related to general skin health. Poor husbandry, especially low humidity, leads to dysecdysis.

Dealing with retained spectacles

The treatment of retained spectacles should be aimed at relieving the ocular problem and also any dysecdysis; the principles of treatment for dysecdysis are the same whether or not retained spectacles are present.