Also called rheum, eye discharge helps eliminate waste products and debris from your tear film and the front surface of your eyes. Your eyes continuously produce tears that prevent rheum from building up or hardening in your eyes. If you experience a buildup of eye discharge, visit your eye doctor for effective treatment.
Continue reading to find out if you should be worried about eye discharge.
What Is Eye Discharge?
Eye discharge can be composed of oil, skin cells, mucus and other debris that settle in the corners of your eyes as you sleep. The discharge can be dry and crusty or wet and sticky depending on how much liquid is in the substance. Some people call it eye gunk, goop, eye boogers, eye pus or eye mattering.
When you are not blinking or are fast asleep, eye discharge usually builds up and settles in the corners of your eyes. This is why it’s sometimes called “sleep in your eyes.” It’s normal to see it some eye discharge when you wake up. However, if you have green or yellow eye discharge along with eye pain, light sensitivity and blurry vision, make sure to contact your eye doctor as this is not normal and could be a sign of infection. Contact your eye care specialist or optometrist ASAP if you are experiencing changes in your vision or eye discomfort.
What Are the Common Causes of Eye Discharge?
Blepharitis is a condition that involves inflammation of the eyelids. It can affect one or both eyes and usually manifests along the edges of your eyelids. This eye condition develops when the small oil glands near the base of your eyelashes get clogged, resulting in redness and irritation. While it can be bothering and unappealing and is sometimes difficult to treat, it does not typically cause permanent damage to your vision and you cannot pass it on to others.
Some of the most common symptoms of blepharitis include itchy eyelids, crusted eyelashes, sticking eyelids, red eyes, watery eyes and swelling eyelids. People who suffer from this eye condition may also experience light sensitivity, blurred vision, more frequent blinking, and a burning or gritty sensation in their eyes.
Eye discharge typically occurs due to conjunctivitis or the inflammation of the conjunctiva. This part of the eye is the thin membrane lining the sclera or the white of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. If you suffer from conjunctivitis, white, green or yellow eye mucus may form a crust along your lash line as you sleep. Your eyes may also feel gritty and itchy and appear red. In severe cases, eyelid crusting can make it difficult for you to open your eyes.
Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, bacteria or a virus. Allergic conjunctivitis occurs due to allergens, such as dander, dust and pollen. Chemical pollutants, contact lens solutions, makeup and eye drops can also trigger an allergic reaction that can result in conjunctivitis. Eye discharge in people with allergic conjunctivitis is usually watery.
Common colds or herpes simplex virus commonly causes viral conjunctivitis. Eye discharge caused by this condition is normally watery and clear, but it can also be white or light yellow in color. Bacterial conjunctivitis requires immediate treatment because it can harm your vision when left unattended. It’s often accompanied by eye discharge in a yellow, green or gray color that’s comparably thicker than that of viral conjunctivitis. It can cause your eyes to feel glued shut when you wake up in the morning.
You can get a stye even if you practice good hygiene. Styes are caused by a bacterial infection in a hair follicle or oil gland on the eyelids. Often, dead skin cells and other debris can clog them. Infection occurs when bacteria get caught inside, resulting in a painful lump or stye. When a follicle or gland gets infected, it produces pus and inflammatory cells that turn into a stye. It can be painful and tender to the touch. A stye can develop inside or inside your eyelids.
More common than internal styes, external styes develop in an eyelash follicle. They occur in the sebaceous glands sometimes, and you can find them on the outer edge of your eyelids. Internal styes mostly start in an oil or meibomian gland within the eyelid tissue. As they grow, they tend to push on your eyes, causing them to feel more painful than external styes.
Similar to pimples, styes may come to a head, creating an off-white or yellowish spot on top. Eyelid swelling, watery eyes, yellowish discharge and light sensitivity are other common symptoms of stye. People who have it may also feel like there is something in their eye or have a gritty feeling in their eye.
Contact Lens Wear
You may notice more discharge in your eyes if you are a contact lens wearer. Excessive discharge can occur due to eye infection, contact lens discomfort that results in dryness and irritation and constantly rubbing your eyes when wearing contacts. Be sure to remove your contacts as soon as you notice an increase in discharge while wearing them. Speak with your optometrist or eye doctor to find out if an eye problem is causing the issue.
Dry Eye Syndrome
You need enough tears to keep the front surface of your eye in good health and to maintain clear vision. With sufficient tears, the front surface of your eye or cornea will remain in good condition. Each time you blink, tears coat the cornea, lubricating the eyes and reducing the risk of eye infection. Tears also help get rid of foreign objects in the eye, keeping the surface clear and smooth. When you don’t have sufficient quality tears keep your eyes moist and nourished, you can develop dry eye syndrome.
This usually chronic eye condition is more common in older individuals. As you age, your risk of developing dry eye syndrome increases. Many people who are older than 65 experience symptoms of this eye condition. You may also develop the condition as a symptom of diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid issues.
Common symptoms of dry eye include red, bloodshot eyes, blurry vision, a burning sensation, and the feeling like there is something in your eye. In some cases, dry eye can cause your eyes to produce a watery eye discharge.
Typically caused by an untreated eye infection or eye trauma, a corneal ulcer is an abscess-like infection in the cornea that can put your vision at risk. You can completely lose your sight if you don’t have this eye condition treated immediately. Among the usual indications of a corneal ulcer are eye redness, pain, swelling and thick eye discharge. The eye discharge can be so serious that it starts to cloud the cornea and affect your vision.
A blocked tear duct can cause inflammation in the lacrimal sac in the tear drainage system. As a result, a tender, swollen lump will form under the inner eyelid. This eye condition is called dacryocystitis, and it is characterized by watery eyes, pain, redness, blurry vision and a sticky eye discharge.
Another thing that can cause eye discharge is an injury. It’s your eyes’ natural response to produce a watery discharge when a foreign body enters them. Go to your eye doctor immediately if there is blood in your eye due to an injury. Keep in mind that eye injuries are considered a medical emergency.