What causes mucus fishing syndrome? Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment

what causes mucusMucus fishing syndrome is characterized by the continuous action of “fishing” or pulling strands of mucus that have accumulated in the lower eyelids. This condition typically begins with eye irritation that leads to excessive mucus production. Due to increased levels of discomfort and irritation in the eye or eyes, sufferers often attempt to remove excess mucus with their fingers or with tissue paper. However, this inadvertently leads to more irritation causing the production of more mucus.

This repeated behavior creates an ongoing cycle of mucus production and removal, for which the syndrome was named after. The majority of cases are the result of an underlying medical condition that leads to increased mucus production, which may include dry eyes, blepharitis, and conjunctivitis.

What are causes, symptoms, and complications of mucus fishing syndrome?


Dry eye syndrome (DES): Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca and is characterized by having dry eyes. Symptoms often include eye irritation, redness, discharge, and easily fatigues eyes, with the possibility of having blurred vision. The condition is believed to be caused by poor quality tears that do not adequately provide lubrication to the eyes. This can resultingly cause the eyes to over produce tears leading to inflammation, irritation, and infection.

Conjunctivitis (pink eye): Caused by inflammation of the outermost layer of the white part of the eye, giving it a pink/red appearance. Pink eye may be also accompanied by pain, burning, scratchiness, or itchiness. Sometimes, the affected eye or eyes may even be stuck shut in the morning as well. The most common reason for conjunctivitis is due to viral causes, but it may also be caused by bacteria, allergy, and various eye irritants.

Blepharitis: Characterized by inflammation of the eyelid leading to symptoms of irritation, itchiness, and reddening of the eyelids. The condition has a number of different causes, with the most common being the clogging of the oil glands found at the base of the eyelashes leading to abnormal or insufficient oil secretion in your tears. Additional causes may due to bacterial infections or due to allergies.

Dacryocystitis: A condition caused by an infection of the lacrimal sac, which drains tears from the eye’s surface and conveys fluid into the nasal cavity. This is usually preceded by an obstruction of the nasolacrimal duction at the junction of the lacrimal sac. Symptoms include pain, redness, and swelling of the inner aspect of the lower eyelid and increased mucus production.

Body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) disorder: This condition refers to incessant self-grooming behavior that includes pulling, picking, biting, or scraping one’s hairs. Often times, these behaviors can lead to significant emotional distress as those affected have difficulties controlling them.

How to diagnose mucus fishing syndrome

Any abnormalities of the eye should be brought to the attention of a medical professional as soon as possible. This includes increased tear or mucus production that doesn’t seem to go away. Early intervention will often prevent the condition from getting worse.

Because mucus fishing syndrome is a self-inflicted condition due to an underlying problem, telling your doctor that you’re constantly picking at your eyelids or that you have abnormal amounts of mucus production will often lead to a diagnosis. This will then prompt further investigation into possible causes and an appropriate treatment.

How to treat mucus fishing syndrome

Perhaps the most effective treatment for mucus fishing syndrome is to break the habit of touching your eye and pulling the mucus in the first place. However, this may be difficult if there is no relief to the increase mucus production. Depending on the particular diagnosis, treatment options may vary from simply using lubricating eye drop or using warm or cold compresses to the use of antibiotics or steroid eye drop.


All forms of treatment will attempt to alleviate the cause of excess mucus production, which should help prevent you from picking at your eyelid. However, if you suffer from BFRB, alternative types of therapy would be needed.

Due to the fact that BFRB is more of a habitual problem, behavioral therapy would be more appropriate. This will attempt to get rid of bad habits. However, it is possible for the symptoms of BFRB to be simply a sign of deeply rooted psychological problems that may benefit from medications such as mood stabilizers and SSRIs (selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors).

Related: What causes mucus in eye (eye discharge) and how to get rid of it?

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.



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