Eye discharge (eye mucus) causes and treatment

By: Emily Lunardo | Eye Health | Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 03:00 PM

eye dischargeEye discharge (eye mucus) is a combination of oil, mucus, skin cells, and other debris accumulating at the corners of your eyes during the sleep. Sometimes, it may be wet and sticky, and at other times it may be dry and crusty.

Although eye discharge may gross you out or may be annoying to clean every morning, it actually has a protective function, removing the waste products and potentially harmful debris from the tear ducts.

Eye discharge is formed while you’re asleep because during the day frequent blinking bathes the eyes, preventing the mucus from accumulating. When we sleep, we do not blink, so the mucus piles up.

A small amount of eye discharge upon awakening is normal, but excessive mucus or a weird color – yellow or green – could indicate a serious eye problem.

Causes of mucus in the eye

The primary cause of eye mucus is the accumulation of oil, debris, and mucus while you sleep. Other causes for mucus in the eye include:

  • Eye infections: mucus will appear grey or green
  • Allergic conjunctivitis: small, dry particles of mucus
  • Viral conjunctivitis: mucus will appear thick and crusty
  • Styes: mucus is watery, and a lump will appear on the eyelid
  • Dacryocystitis: mucus will be white and stringy (condition is caused by inflammation of the tear sac)
  • Blepharitis: mucus will appear yellow
  • Dry eye syndrome: mucus will be white or yellow, and ball-shaped
  • Contact lenses: wearing old or dirty contact lenses can increase mucus production. Also, contact lenses restrict oxygen to the eyes, contributing to eye dryness.
  • Exposure to chemicals

Treatment options for eye discharge

FDA warns off contact lensHere are some home remedies to try for eye discharge:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, especially with dirty hands. Always wash your hands prior to touching your eyes.
  • Always remove your contacts and ensure they are being properly cleaned. Also, avoid wearing old contacts.
  • Discard old eye makeup and avoid sharing eye makeup with others.
  • Get to know your allergens and avoid them as best as possible or, at least, stick with your allergy treatment plan.
  • Apply warm compresses to the eyes.

Generally, a small amount of eye discharge is normal and only requires you to wash your face to remove it. If you begin to notice changes to your eye discharge, such as changes in color or amount produced, see your doctor, as it could indicate an infection and you would need medicated eye drops to clear it up.

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