Eye discharge — also known as eye mucus, goop, eye gunk, or eye boogers — may concern many people.
In most cases, eye discharge is normal and nothing to worry about. However, if the discharge in your eye makes you uncomfortable, it may be time to visit your doctor.
Several types of eye mucus discharge and conditions may be linked to them. The sooner you make an appointment, the quicker your doctor can check your eyes for a proper diagnosis and start any necessary treatment.
What Does Eye Discharge Look Like?
Eye pus or discharge varies considerably. It may appear clear and watery or thick, green, and sticky. Make sure you visit your eye doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Eye mucus tends to accumulate in the corners of your eyes during sleep. Sometimes you can remove it by rubbing your finger in the corner of your eyes. However, sometimes your eyelids may feel glued shut by the gunk stuck to your eyelashes.
What Causes Eye Discharge?
Everyone produces the goop that causes eye mucus. This is normal for healthy people. However, some adjustments in lifestyle or eye health can lead the eyes to create excess discharge.
Some of these changes can also make the discharge more likely to stick to the eyes. Causes of excess eye discharge include:
Some eye products like cosmetics or contact lenses may aggravate the eyes and cause them to create more mucus.
Dirt and Debris
When the eyes have collected debris around them, they can become irritated.
For example, when someone sleeps without removing mascara or other makeup. The eyes create extra mucus that can get trapped within the eyes and on the eyelashes.
Changes in the Weather or Climate
Some people create more eye discharge at certain times of the year. For example, during allergy season or cold weather.
Healthy eye discharge is clear or light yellow. It can sometimes be hard, sludgy, or thin after sleeping. However, it should not be noticeable during the day.
If the mucus from your eyes is very thick, dark yellow, green, or occurs with redness or eye pain, it could suggest an infection. If you have these symptoms, you should see an eye doctor as soon as possible.
Types of Eye Discharge & What They Mean
Various types of eye discharge may suggest different conditions.
Here are some forms of discharge and what they mean:
Morning Mucus (Sleep Crust)
Sleep crust is a combination of mucus, exfoliated skin cells, tears, and oils created or shed by the eye during sleep. It is a natural and healthy part of eye function.4 During the day, all the morning mucus washes away when you blink tears.
This stops the morning mucus from remaining in your eyes. However, gravity and the fact that you are not blinking make the sleep crust collect in the corner of your eye when you are asleep.
Crusty Eyelashes and Thick Eye Mucus
Blepharitis is a common eye condition that makes your eyelids swollen, red, irritated, and itchy. It can lead to crusty dandruff-like flakes on your eyelashes.
This eye condition can be uncomfortable. However, it is not contagious and does not cause any lasting damage to your eyes.
The best treatment for blepharitis is regularly cleaning your eyelids and ensuring they are free of crusts. You can also try applying warm compresses followed by eyelid scrubs.
An eye infection may cause watery tears mixed with a small amount of eye discharge.
Viral conjunctivitis can result in various symptoms, including eyelid swelling, redness, blurry vision, and a foreign body sensation. Conjunctivitis is also called pink eye.
Viral conjunctivitis is often linked to upper respiratory viral illnesses. Inflammation and irritation can cause your eyes to water excessively.
Eye Bump & Mucus
Sometimes, eye mucus develops with a lump or reddish bump at the eyelash base or under the eyelid. If mucus only occurs in this area, or you notice pus in the bump, it may be a stye.
Styes are painful, small, red bumps found at the edge of the eyelids. These usually develop due to a bacterial infection.
In some cases, bacterial eye infections like styes can cause the whole eyelid to grow and swell. If you have any symptoms of a stye, visit your doctor, where they can provide medical advice. Never attempt to squeeze or pop a stye.
Stringy, white eye mucus may suggest allergic conjunctivitis.6 An allergic reaction in the eye can make you feel very uncomfortable. The allergic response may create deposits and material stuck together, gathering inside your eye or under the lower eyelid.
If eye allergies become severe, eye drops or oral medications may be necessary. Your eye doctor may suggest using chilled, over-the-counter artificial tears several times a day. This rehydrates and lubricates your eyes and dilutes the number of antigens in your tears.
White or Yellow Mucus Balls
White or yellow mucus balls and watery tears are common symptoms of dacryocystitis. This is the nasolacrimal sac or tear drainage system infection. If you have this condition, you may experience facial pain, redness, and swelling around the nasal area of the eyelid.
You may also notice a discharge leaving the puncta. This is a small drainage hole in the eyelid. This condition can become severe if you do not meet your eye doctor immediately for treatment with antibiotics.
When is Eye Discharge a Sign of Something Serious?
Eye discharge is usually normal and isn't indicative of an eye disease.
However, you should speak with your doctor if you experience excessive eye discharge that doesn't improve after a week. In severe cases, your discharge may develop with other symptoms like eye pain and impaired vision.
How to Get Rid of Eye Discharge
Here are some ways to get rid of eye discharge:
Good hygiene can help reduce eye mucus. This includes removing makeup at night and keeping your eyes clean by rubbing the closed eyes with a clean, warm washcloth.
Eye drops from various brands are found online. However, speaking with an eye doctor before purchasing is suggested to ensure the product is safe for use.
Proper Contact Lens Use
People with contact lenses who want to reduce their eye mucus should remove their lenses at night. They should also replace their contacts as recommended by their eye doctor and use the proper solutions to clean their lenses.
Some people notice more eye boogers when they wake up in the morning. Applying a warm compress over the eyes for three to five minutes can help loosen the mucus. If there is enough discharge to make the eyelids stick shut in the morning, you should speak with your eye doctor to rule out a bacterial eye infection.
Eye Discharge in Babies
Babies create eye mucus and may develop eye infections.
A baby with an eye discharge similar to an adult's is typically healthy. However, some newborns have tear ducts that are not fully developed. This may lead the tear ducts to become blocked.
Babies with a blocked tear duct may develop green or yellow mucus throughout the day and not just when they wake up.
Babies with this kind of discharge may be tended to with a warm compress. If the eye becomes red, tender, or swollen, the baby may have an eye infection and should see a doctor.
Children with blocked tear ducts that do not improve by the age of one may require surgery to open the tear duct.
Eye discharge is normal for healthy people. You may see it when you wake up or after a long day. However, speak with your doctor if you experience excessive eye discharge with other symptoms. They can recommend ways to reduce eye discharge and determine if the issue is serious.
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