Every time you blink, your eyes get a few milliseconds of protection and a quick moisture bath. Blinking is also a way your eyes wash away the mucus it made all day long.
When you’re asleep, mucus collects in the corner of your eye, where your lashes meet your eyelid.
Thus, you might spot cream-colored mucus from time to time, and that’s perfectly normal. In other words, white discharges or mucus forms when an irritant, like sand or dirt, gets in your eye.
Concisely, in some cases, white eye discharge in one or both of your eyes is often an indication of irritation or an eye infection, while in other cases; this discharge may just be a buildup of oil and mucus that accumulates while you’re resting.
Even though white eye discharge may not be an initial cause for concern in some cases, medical attention is still recommended to ensure your condition does not cause damaging complications.
Causes Of Eye Discharge
Discharges in your eyes usually don’t call for alarm, but if you notice a difference in consistency, color, and quantity, then it could indicate an eye infection or disease.
Common irritants may be easily blamed for your white eye discharge; however, there are also a number of conditions that can cause eye irritation, discharge, and discomfort.
Conditions Associated With Abnormal Eye Discharge
Common eye conditions linked with abnormal eye discharge include:
Eye discharge is a common symptom of conjunctivitis, which is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the thin membrane that lines the white area of the eye (sclera), and the inner surface of the eyelids.
Conjunctivitis typically is accompanied by white, yellow or green eye mucus which can form a crust along the lash line while you sleep, in addition to itchy, gritty, irritated and red eyes.
In some cases of conjunctivitis, eyelid crusting can be so severe that it temporarily seals your eye shut.
There are three types of conjunctivitis: viral, bacterial and allergic.
- Viral conjunctivitis: is highly contagious and is caused by a virus such as the common cold or herpes simplex virus. Eye discharge associated with viral conjunctivitis typically is clear and watery but may include a white or light yellow mucus component.
- Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacterial infection and can threaten your sight if not treated promptly. Eye discharge is usually thicker and more pus-like and is commonly yellow, green or even gray. Time and again, the sticky mattering will cause your eyelids to feel completely glued shut, especially, when waking in the morning.
- Eye allergies or allergic conjunctivitis is an immune response that occurs when your eye is irritated by allergens. Such allergens may include pollen or dust, and this form of conjunctivitis can affect one or both eyes, and may also be accompanied by jamming and eye discharge. Other eye allergy symptoms include itchiness, burning, swollen eyelids, runny nose, and sneezing
The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the known allergen, but medication for allergies may be helpful in treating eye allergy symptoms. Eye drops to relieve inflammation and discomfort may also be prescribed by your doctor.
Other Eye Infections
There are many eye infections that cause abnormal eye discharge in addition to conjunctivitis. These include:
- eye herpes
- fungal keratitis (serious inflammation of the cornea) and
- Acanthamoeba keratitis (a parasitic infection that can cause blindness and is typically caused by poor contact lens hygiene or swimming while wearing contacts).
- Blepharitis: a chronic disorder of the eyelids,
- Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) can cause foamy eye discharge, eyelid crusting, as well as yellow or green eye pus.
- Stye: This is a clogged meibomian gland at the base of the eyelid that is typically caused by an infected eyelash follicle. For an eye stye, it’s important to refrain from squeezing the pus from a stye to reduce the risk of the infection spreading to other areas of the eye.
- Hordeolum: this resembles a pimple on the eyelid margin and is commonly accompanied by redness, swollen eyelids, and tenderness in the affected area. Yellow pus, eyelid crusting, and discomfort while blinking may also occur.
- Contact lenses can cause discharges due to a number of reasons, including a contact lens-related eye infection, contact lens discomfort resulting in dry and irritated eyes, as well as rubbing your eyes more while wearing contacts. If you experience an increase in eye discharge when wearing contacts, see your eye doctor to rule out a potentially serious condition.
- Eye injury: an extraneous object in the eye such as dirt, or a chemical substance or an injury to the eye can cause your eyes to secrete a watery discharge as a natural protective reaction or response. However, if blood in the eye (subconjunctival hemorrhage) occurs after an eye injury, see your eye doctor immediately for medical emergency treatment.
Eye Discharge Treatment
As already stated, a small amount of eye discharge is not hurtful, but if you notice changes in the color, frequency, consistency and amount of the discharge, consult an eye expert or your eye doctor.
If an eye infection is the cause of eye mucus, your eye doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or antiviral eye drops and ointments, but if eye allergies are the cause of your eyes being watery and irritated, over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops and decongestants may help relieve symptoms.
Warm compresses placed over your eyes may help relieve symptoms of itching and general eye discomfort, and if your eyelids are stuck together, wet a washcloth in hot water and place it over your eyes for a few minutes, before gently wiping away the eye gunk. This is the best way to “unglue” your eyelids.
Tips To Manage Eye Discharge At Home
- Refrain from touching your eyes to avoid contamination or the spread of an eye infection.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially if you have conjunctivitis.
- If you experience eye discharge when wearing contacts, remove your lenses and contact your eye doctor.
- Sometimes switching to daily disposable contacts can reduce the risk of contact lens-related infections and discharge.
- Discard any potentially contaminated cosmetics such as mascara and eyeliner.
- If allergies are the cause of your watery eyes, investigate your environment and try to remove your exposure to the irritants.