All About Eye Discharge

Identify the Boogers Coming From Your Eyes

Goop, eye boogers, eye gunk...whatever you call it, eye mucus is a big concern for many people. Eye mucus is usually found in the corners of your eyes and tends to accumulate during sleep. Sometimes the discharge is easily removed by rubbing your finger in the corner of your eye. Other times, your eyelids may seem to be glued shut by the gunk stuck to your lashes. If the discharge in your eyes is making your life miserable, it may be time to let your eye doctor take a look.

You may find it difficult to describe the gunk in your eyes to your eye doctor, but characterizing the consistency of your eye mucus is important. Mucus occurring in and around the eyes can be associated with a number of eye problems, a few of which can be serious. The color and type of mucus you see around your eyes, as well as the consistency, will help your doctor determine the cause and possible treatment to help you. 

Below are several different types of eye mucus discharge and the conditions that could be associated with them. If you think you may have one of these conditions, don't hesitate to consult your eye doctor. The sooner you make the appointment, the sooner your doctor will be able to check your eyes for a correct diagnosis and begin treatment that may be needed.

Thick Green or Gray Eye Mucus

Removing eye mucus. Tara Moore/Taxi/Getty Images

A thick green or gray mucus discharge could be something serious. A green or grayish discharge coming from your eyes may represent an eye infection caused by bacteria. Bacterial conjunctivitis may cause your eyelid to be completely stuck shut upon awakening in the morning. This type of eye infection is caused by pus-producing (pyogenic) bacteria, and can cause symptoms such as redness and irritation. If you wake up with the feeling of not being able to open your eyes, you could have an eye infection. 

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a clear mucus membrane that lines the inside of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. Pink eye rarely causes long-term vision or eye damage, but it can make the eye extremely red. There are several types of conjunctivitis. It is important to have an eye doctor evaluate the condition to determine proper treatment.

Yellow Eye Mucus

Yellow mucus along with a small lump or nodule on your eyelid can be caused by a stye. Eyelid glands sometimes become clogged and infected and leak mucus. You might be tempted to release the trapped mucus by squeezing it like a pimple, but it is generally recommended that you don't because you may wind up with a skin infection. If you see yellow mucus, go let your eye doctor take a look.

If you do indeed have a stye, your eye may also feel bruised and be sensitive to light. You may also notice a reddish bump on your eyelid. If your stye is severe, you may develop an internal hordeolum. Pus will build up in the center of the stye, causing a yellowish spot that looks similar to a pimple. 

White or Yellow Balls of Eye Mucus

White or yellow mucus balls in watery tears is a common sign of dacryocystitis, the nasolacrimal sac or tear drainage system infection. If you have dacryocystitis, you may complain of facial pain, redness and swelling around the nasal part of the eyelid. You may also notice a discharge coming out of the puncta, a small drainage hole in the eyelid. This condition can become serious if not treated promptly with antibiotics.

Thick Crusty Eye Mucus

Thick crusty mucus on your eyelids and eyelashes may be caused by a condition called blepharitis. Blepharitis is sometimes caused by a bacteria found on your skin. The bacteria may grow and infect the eyelids and eyelashes causing redness and inflammation. The eyelids may also thicken and form dandruff-like scales on the lids and lashes.

Blepharitis is often treated by applying warm compresses followed by eyelid scrubs. Eyelid scrubs can be performed in several different ways. The eye is closed and scrubbed with the washcloth using a gentle back and forth motion. Baby shampoo is recommended because it does not sting your eyes. 

Stringy, White Eye Mucus

Stringy, white mucus may represent allergic conjunctivitis. Eye allergies can make you miserable. The allergic response may produce deposits and material that stick together, collecting inside of your eye or under the lower eyelid. A common comment of people with allergic conjunctivitis is "I keep having to pull this white, stringy mucus out of my eye!"

If eye allergies become severe, eye drops or oral medications may be prescribed. Your eye doctor might recommend instilling chilled, over-the-counter, artificial tears several times a day. This serves to rehydrate and lubricate your eye and dilutes the numbers of antigens present in your tears.

Watery Eye Mucus

Watery tears mixed with a small amount of mucus can be caused by a virus. Viral conjunctivitis can cause a variety of symptoms such as eyelid swelling, blurred vision, redness and a foreign body sensation. Viral conjunctivitis is often associated with upper respiratory viral illnesses. Inflammation and irritation will cause your eye to water excessively.

Small, Dry Particles of Eye Mucus

Small, dry particles of mucus found in the corners of your eyes upon waking is often a sign of dry eyes or dry eye syndrome. Human tears are made of many ingredients but are largely composed of water, mucus and oil. When the water component is decreased, mucus and oil stick together, dry out and wind up in the corners of your eyes in the morning.

Source:

Sowka, Joseph W, Andrew S Gurwood and Alan G Kabat. The Handbook of Ocular Disease Management, Supplement to Review of Optometry. April 15, 2010.

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