Eye Boogers: What Are They and How to Get Rid of Them

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What are Eye Boogers?

Waking up with eye boogers is normal. Eye boogers are the crust you may find in the corners of your eyes when you wake up in the morning.

There are many reasons why you might have eye boogers. Most of the time, this discharge in the corners of your eyes is just residue from your eyes’ natural protective process.6

Eye boogers are nothing but a buildup of mucus in your eyes. Generally, they collect in the corner of your inner eyelid by your tear glands or along your eyelashes. These are quite common eye conditions in the morning.

Eye boogers can be hard and crusty. They can also be sticky and wet. Generally, this gunk is a whitish or cream color.3

What are Eye Boogers Called?

Eye boogers are also known as:

  • Eye crust
  • Eye gunk
  • Eye discharge
  • Sleep crust
  • Rheum

Rheum is the scientific name for this goopy mucus. Rheum is mucus from the conjunctiva and oil from your meibomian glands.6  This mucus makes up your tear film. It keeps your eyes feeling moist, which protects them.

Rheum consists of:

  • Skin cells from your inner eyelid
  • Cells from your cornea
  • Immune cells
  • Bacteria and debris your body clears away during sleep

Why Do I Have Eye Boogers Every Day?

Normal eye discharge happens when the mucus and oils that keep your eyes moist build-up while your eyes are closed. You normally blink this away while awake, so you might not notice it. While you’re sleeping, your eyes can produce more discharge that has nowhere to go.

Rheum can build up during sleep because you’re not blinking. This eye discharge can then collect in clumps in the corner of your eyes, as well as along your eyelash line.6

What Causes Lots of Eye Boogers?

Eye boogers aren’t typically a cause for concern. However, excessive or abnormal eye discharge can signify an underlying problem. Eye conditions that may cause extra mucus or irritation include:

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink eye may be a root cause behind your crusty eyes in the mornings. Pink eye is also known as conjunctivitis.

It refers to an infection or inflammation of your conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the membrane that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eye.4

Different types of conjunctivitis include:

  • Viral conjunctivitis
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis
  • Allergic conjunctivitis

If the blood vessels in the conjunctiva become inflamed, they make your eyes appear red or pink. This is where pink eye gets its name.

Blocked Tear Duct

A blocked tear duct may make your eyes crusty in the mornings. When your tear ducts become partially or completely obstructed, your tears cannot drain.1

Therefore, you get very watery eyes. And, with watery eyes, you get a discharge that can collect in the corner.

Blocked tear ducts are especially common in newborn babies.1 As for adults, blocked tear ducts may result from:

  • Eye infections
  • Eye injuries
  • Tumors
  • Certain medications

Dry Eye

Dry eye can also be a reason for waking up with eye crust. If your eyes are dry, you may notice more crust than usual. 

You can also get dry eyes from allergies, which makes them create extra discharge to flush away the allergens.

Styes

A stye, also known as a hordeolum, is a small red bump that grows around your eye. It usually grows along the base of your eyelash or just beneath the eyelid.2 Styes can be quite painful.

You may get a stye for several reasons; a bacterial infection is the most common.

But you can also develop styes from conditions like blepharitis.2

There are two different types of styes you should know about:

  1. External hordeolum. This is a stye that starts at the base of your eyelash. An infected hair follicle generally brings it on.
  2. Internal hordeolum. This is a stye that forms inside your eyelid. It typically occurs because of an infection in an oil gland in the area.

Other Causes

You can also get excessive eye boogers from:

  • Wearing contacts to bed
  • Excessive tearing due to allergies
  • Irritated eyes
  • Bacterial infections

When to See a Doctor for Eye Mucus

If the crust in your eyes in the morning is yellow or greenish, or if you experience any other uncomfortable eye symptoms, it could be a sign that you have an eye infection or another eye health issue.3 

Consult your eye doctor if you are worried that your eye crust could signify something more serious.

Too much mucus can cause eye pain and discomfort if you do not get it treated promptly.

Talk to your doctor if:

  • Your eye crust is getting worse
  • Your eye crust is turning into a yellow mucus or green mucus
  • Other unpleasant symptoms accompany the eye crust
  • You have a chronic condition (like seasonal allergies)
  • Your contacts irritate your eyes

Some eye conditions are uncomfortable, like an infected eyelash follicle. Others are contagious, like pink eye.

You don’t want to endure discomfort or spread your eye infections to anyone else. A doctor may be able to prescribe you medicine or eye drops to help.

How to Get Rid of Eye Boogers At Home

You can get rid of eye boogers on your own most of the time. If they are persistent, you may need to visit your eye doctor.

Always wash your hands with soap and hot water before touching your eyes. Touching your eyes with dirty hands can lead to irritation and infection.

After washing your hands, you can soak a washcloth in warm water to gently wipe away the crust. Gently massage the eye boogers away with the warm washcloth for a few minutes.6 

Artificial tears can also help. Call your doctor if your symptoms are severe or if artificial tears fail to provide relief.

Can Eye Boogers Indicate Something More Serious?

Eye boogers are pretty normal. Most of the time, they are not considered a sign of a potentially serious eye condition. Usually, sleep crust is just residue that builds up in the corner of your eye.

Some eye crust could indicate something more serious, such as pink eye or a stye.

If you are experiencing a lot of eye crust, more eye crust than usual, or eye crust accompanied by other uncomfortable symptoms, consult your doctor. There may be something else causing it.

If you have another eye condition, you will want to treat it promptly to prevent vision obstruction.

6 Cited Research Articles
  1. Blocked Tear Duct.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2021.
  2. Boyd, Kierstan. “What Are Chalazia and Styes?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2022.
  3. Is That Morning ‘Eye Gunk’ Normal?” University of Utah Health, 2018.
  4. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2020.
  5. Gudgel, DT. “Quick Home Remedies for Pink Eye.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2021.
  6. Boyd, Kierstan. “What Is Sleep Crust?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2021.
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