The song lyrics from the Chordettes 1954 hit Mr. Sandman characterize the “sleep” in our eyes as something that transfers dreams. However, most of us feel that eye discharge, or “eye goo”, is far from dreamy. Don’t sweat it too much; morning eye discharge is actually a normal process that helps our eyes to remove waste from our tear film. The “sand” in the corner of our eye is often a combination of oil, tears, skin cells and mucus that accumulates during sleep.

 

Upon waking, some eye debris or sand in your eye is normal. However, if you wake up with yellow or green gook in the corner of your eyes, you may have the symptoms of an eye infection.

 

Where Does Eye Mucus Come From?

 

The technical term for eye discharge is referred to as rheum. Rheum is a type of natural mucus that the human eye produces throughout the day to help stay moist between blinks. Through the natural process of blinking, a continuous thin film of tears bathes the eye, flushing away the rheum or mucus before it can become hardened. When the rheum in our eye is altered by bacteria, a virus, or some other issue, unusual eye conditions can occur.

 

Common Eye Infections That Cause Eye Mucus

 

Allergic Conjunctivitis

 

Patients who suffer an allergic conjunctivitis often experience symptoms in both eyes as well as a runny or stuffy nose, especially during the changing of seasons. The symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis can normally be treated at home with allergy medicines. However, you should contact your doctor if symptoms become increasingly worse.

 

Pink Eye or Conjunctivitis

 

Pink eye occurs when either allergies, bacteria, or a virus penetrates the eye or eyelid. When the pink eye virus is present, it causes inflammation of the "white" of the eye (sclera) and the inner eyelid surface. Besides for itching and swelling, pink eye is sometimes associated with white, yellow or green eye discharge that forms into an eyelash crust. In a more progressed stage of pink eye, patients can experience eyelid crusting that temporarily seals the eye lid shut. The three types of conjunctivitis produce different symptoms and should be treated in different ways.

 

Viral Conjunctivitis

 

Eye discharge caused by viral pink eye normally runs clear, yet in some cases, white or light yellow eye mucus can be present. Viral conjunctivitis is contagious and is caused by the same viral germs as a common cold or the herpes simplex virus. Viral conjunctivitis can run its course from one to three weeks’ time. However, if your doctor believes your pink eye might be caused by the herpes simplex virus, he or she may prescribe an anti-viral medication.

 

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

 

Patients that experience thicker or a pus-like mucus eye discharge may be suffering bacterial conjunctivitis. Eye discharge from bacterial conjunctivitis is more likely to be green or even a grayish in color. The sticky mucus caused by bacteria in the eye is extremely contagious and can cause serious damage to eyes if left untreated. Patients who suspect they may have this condition should see their doctor right away. Antibiotics are normally prescribed for bacterial pink eye.

 

Blepharitis

 

When eyelash hair follicles create an abnormal amount of oil, a chronic disorder of the eyelid called blepharitis can emerge. Symptoms include the feeling like something is in your eye, red or swollen eyelids, burning in the eye, and crusting of the eyelashes. This condition can lead to tissue damage. While blepharitis cannot be cured, doctors will recommend a strict eyelid hygiene regimen and may recommend to sufferers of this condition to refrain from wearing eye makeup.

 

Dry Eye Syndrome and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

 

If your constant companion is the eye drop bottle in your pocket, you might be suffering from something more than typical dry eye. Two thirds of all dry eye sufferers actually have a condition called meibomian gland dysfunction, which causes an eye’s natural tears to evaporate quicker. When patients suffer from this condition, they may experience yellow or green eye pus, and a foamy eye discharge. Meibomian gland dysfunction is caused by a blockage of the meibomian glands located in the corner of our eyes. Age can affect the meibomian gland, as can damage to the nerve endings of the eye caused by Lasik surgery. If you are experiencing some of these eye symptoms, consult an eye doctor.

 

Eye Sty

 

A sty is a clogged meibomian gland located at the eyelid base, normally caused by infected eyelash follicles. Styes resemble the look of a pimple on the eyelid and actually contain yellow pus. If you have an eye sty, do not squeeze or poke it with a needle to drain the fluid, as performing this task will lead to bacteria running into the eye. Instead, wash the area affected by the sty with a warm, damp, washcloth. The sty will typically disappear on its own within a week.

 

Discharge Caused by Contact Lenses

 

People who wear contact lenses often find more “sleep” in their eyes than the norm. There are many causes for additional eye discharge in contact lens wearers, including dry eyes, excessive rubbing the eye, or in rarer cases, contracting a contact lens eye infection. Taking good care of your lenses and using the disinfectant lens solution recommended by your optometrist can reduce the risk of contracting an eye infection. One risk contact lens wearers should also be made aware of is a fungal eye infection. Eye infections caused by eye fungi are difficult to control and cure. Even with regular contact lens care, a potential risk of contact lens eye fungal infection is a small possibility. When some fungi mix with certain eye bacteria, they can form a strain of fungi resistant to contact lens disinfecting solutions. This type of fungi creates microorganisms that cling to each other and to a surface of soft contact lenses. If you suspect you are suffering from a lens solution infection, see your eye doctor immediately. To prevent this condition from occurring always clean your lens case.

 

Other Considerations

 

Many other contributing factors can lead to eye discharge: Individuals exposed to others who have eye infections can contract the same viral or bacterial germs; and sleeping in contact lenses can cause eye inflammation and risk for infection. Cold symptoms and sinus congestion can be also be a common cause. Be sure to consult with an eye doctor to intervene when abnormal eye discharge symptoms persist.

 

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