The Phenomenon of Eye Discharge and associated Eye Problems

Mon May 04 2020

When you wake up from deep sleep and feel there is a sticky substance in your eye, are you aware of where it emerges from?

What is eye discharge?

That sticky substance is an eye discharge, also addressed as eye gunk, rheum, goop, or ‘sleep’. These tiny residues are much more than just a substance you remove from the corner of your eye every morning. This discharge is a combination of mucus, oil, skin cells, and other residues that get accumulated during your sleep.

Why does the discharge get accumulated during your sleep?

An average person tends to blink 15-20 times per minute, the blinking keeps the eye protected, provides moisture, and washes away the mucus. So when you sleep, the mucus is not washed out and gets accumulated in the corner of the eye. The mucus can be removed with a clean cloth, but if there are other problems along with mucus, you must consult an ophthalmologist. Always check if you have developed any issues like:
  • Changed colour of discharge into pungent yellow or green
  • Blurred vision
  • Itchy, sore or dry eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Bloodshot red eyes
  • Light sensitivity or photophobia

Eye discharge causes

The primary reason behind the goop or mucus is a bacterial or viral infection, allergy, or dirt. Bacterial eye infections require antibiotic drops to get rid of them. The treatments, as prescribed by the doctor, usually takes 5-10 days to make you free from bacterial infection. On the other hand, viral infections might take some more time to go, usually 2-3 weeks. Washing your hands at regular intervals and keeping your hands away from your eyes prevents eye infection from spreading. Fungal eye infection is rare, but are serious as they can be sight-threatening.

Types of eye infection

If the problems persist for a longer period then there could be other reasons like:
  • Pink Eye or Conjunctivitis

    Accompanied by pain, redness, itching, and mucus-forming a crust in your eye, it’s an infection caused in the eyelid’s thin membrane called the conjunctiva. Pink eyes may spread if a proper diagnosis is not received on time.
  • Blepharitis

    A condition where an unusual amount of mucus, oil, and green-yellow puss is generated in the eye. The reason is an inflammation in the eyelashes. You must visit an ophthalmologist soon in this case.
  • Contact Lens

    Wearing your contact lenses for a very long time may cause discomfort, and it may lead to inflammation. It may also lead to more than average eye discharge. Note: Never sleep wearing contact lenses until your doctor recommends doing so.
  • Stye

    An inflammation found on the eyelid with a small accumulation of pus is called a stye. This is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. One should seek treatment for quick recovery.
  • Corneal Ulcer

    Being a serious condition, if left untreated, it may even lead to corneal transplant. The cornea is the outer layer of the eye, it gets infected and results in excessive tearing in the eye, pain, and sometimes it may get difficult to even open your eyes.
  • Blocked Tear Duct

    Also known as Darcyocystitis, it is a painful condition. The tear duct produces a fluid layer on the gunk every time we blink, but with the block, the fluid gets accumulated and results in excessive discharge along with pain and redness. It may get better on its own, but seeking treatment is always recommended.
  • Keratitis

    Keratitis is a painful inflammatory condition that affects the cornea of the eye. This eye condition results from either some infection (viral, bacterial, parasitic, or fungal) or eye injury. Keratitis is not always infectious. Some of the symptoms of keratitis include:
    • Eye discomfort and pain
    • Light insensitivity
    • Swelling and redness in the eyes
    • Constant sensation of something stuck in the eyes
    • Unusual tear discharge
  • Endophthalmitis

    Endophthalmitis is an eye infection that affects the tissues and fluids inside the eyeball, usually caused by infection. This eye condition is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention. Endophthalmitis can happen after eye surgeries like cataract surgery etc. Some of the symptoms to watch out for endophthalmitis are:
    • Eye discharge or pus
    • Partial or complete loss of vision
    • Severe eye pain
    • Swelling and redness in the eyelids and areas around the eye
    • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Uveitis

    Uveitis is an eye condition that happens when uvea (layer of tissue that lies beneath the white of the eye, called sclera) gets inflamed from the infection. Uveitis can result from eye injuries, infection, or immune system conditions. Some of the symptoms for uveitis include:
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Pain and redness in the eyes
    • 'Floaters' in your visual field
    • Blurry vision
    • Light sensitivity
  • Orbital Cellulitis

    Orbital cellulitis is a potentially serious infection of eyelid and skin around the eyes. It causes eyelid redness and swelling. It also causes swelling on the eye skin.

How to treat eye discharge?

It is very important to take care of one’s eyes and never take any abnormality lightly. If the mucus discharge does not go away on its own in some days, then you should make an appointment with your doctor. Tell the eye specialist about the symptoms you are experiencing. Based upon your condition, the doctor may recommend you with:
  • Steroid eye drops
  • Antibiotics
  • Warm and cold compresses to soothe eyes
  • Eye drops to keep the eye lubricated
However, there are a few tips you can follow to keep away eye irritation and infections:
  • Never self-medicate by over the counter available drugs. Consult an ophthalmologist if you have any eye-related issues.
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • If you have an infection, avoid using cosmetics like mascara, eyeliner, etc.
  • In case of dry eyes, get an eye drop
  • To remove the discharge, take a washcloth, dip it in warm water and wipe the corners with your eyes closed
  • Never sleep with your contact lens on until prescribed
Following a simple eye care routine can keep you away from excessive eye discharge and its associated discomfort. But if it persists, the only solution is to visit an ophthalmologist without any delay. Center for Sight is a leading eye care centre in India and it is known for unmatched eye care services in India. The specialized eye doctors treat issues such as laser treatment for eyes, SMILE eye surgery, glaucoma, and others. Consult CFS for quick diagnosis and reliable treatment.
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