What is this in my eye? - PIH Health - Whittier, CA

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Published on July 12, 2019

What is This in My Eye?

Image of people rubbing their eyes

Here are some eye-opening facts about eye discharge

Image of people rubbing their eyesEver have crusty or runny goop coming out of your eyes? What are normal ‘sleep crusties’ and what is something you should have checked out by a medical professional? Here are some facts about eye discharge to help you see it all clearly:

  • Normal eye discharge which is comprised of mucus, exfoliated skin cells, oils and tears are normal eye health functions.
  • No matter what the discharge looks like, if you are having severe eye pain, changes in vision or redness around your eyes, especially if you wear contact lenses or have had recent eye surgery, you may need urgent medical care and should contact a physician immediately.
  • Yellow mucus from the eye may be caused by a stye and might be accompanied by a small lump near or on your eyelid. This is caused by an eye gland or eyelash hair follicle becoming clogged and infected. It’s best to avoid squeezing the stye or touching is too much. If it lingers for more than a few days, have your eye doctor examine it.
  • White or yellow balls of mucus is a sign of dacryocystitis, or tear duct infection. You may also have facial pain, redness and swelling around the nasal part of the eyelid, according to VeryWellHealth.com. This condition requires antibiotics, and you should get medical help.
  • Thick, crusty mucus around your eyes is often a result of blepharitis, which is sometimes caused by bacteria on the skin that gets into your eyes. The crud that develops is similar to dandruff. This is a minor condition and can be treated with a warm compress and by gently cleansing the eyelids. On a similar note, beware of any bacteria that may come into contact with your eyes and cause infection. This can include contact lenses, makeup brushes and unwashed hands.
  • If you have a stringy and white discharge, it may be caused by allergies or may be noninfectious. “Allergic conjunctivitis” is the technical term, and you could see an ophthalmologist or a physician specializing in allergies. You may be prescribed over-the-counter eye drops to help better lubricate your eyes.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis, according to WebMD, is evident when there is “heavy, pus-like material in one or both eyes.” This may be an indication of pinkeye, which is highly contagious. If you or a loved one has these type of symptoms, make sure everyone washes their hands carefully and frequently to prevent spreading the bacteria. Visit a physician’s office for antibiotics to treat pinkeye. Anyone with pinkeye should not attend school, work or be out in public places.
  • VeryWellHealth.com describes small, dry particles of mucus found in the corners of your eyes when you wake up in the morning as a possible sign of dry eye syndrome. When human tears containing water, oil and mucus loose moisture, the remnants of the oil and mucus form crusty, dry pieces in your eye. Your eyes may need some added moisture through over-the-counter eye drops. Take care not to dry out your eyes by going for a long period without blinking, such as staring at a screen for an extended time. Take a break and look away from the screen every 20 minutes or so.

“The specific consistency of eye discharge can be a good indication of what is happening with your eyes,” explained Jenny Yu Chen Kuan OD, a PIH Health Optometrist. “You should seek immediate medical attention for any acute pain, redness, vision changes, swelling or mucus in and around the eyes because these are signs that something more severe is occurring.”

Learn more about keeping your eyes healthy by visiting PIHHealth.org/EyeCare.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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