Whether you jump right out of bed in the morning or can’t wake up until your second cup of coffee, your eyes have probably left you with a souvenir from the night before. You might know them as eye boogers, crusties, sleep, gunk, or goop, but almost all of us have them.
Keep reading to find out what causes normal eye snot and how to tell when something else might be going on.
Reading: How do eye boogers form
what are eye mucus?
Morning boogers are a natural part of how your body works. the technical name for those little crunchies is rheum. the rheum is composed of:
cells inside the eyelid and cornea
cells produced by your immune system to fight infection
dust particles and bacteria that your body eliminates while you sleep
why do we have snot in our eyes?
tears are not just for crying. a fine layer of tears covers your eyes and protects them. Tears are made by small glands above each eye and drain into tiny openings called tear ducts.
When you blink, tears roll over the surface of your eyes to keep them clean. but when you sleep, you don’t blink. the mucus and debris that normally wash away tears when you blink start to collect in the corners of your eyes. this makes you wake up with snot in your eyes.
what causes excess mucus in the eyes?
Most of the time, runny eyes are a normal part of waking up. they mean your body is doing its job. but some conditions cause extra discharge, mucus, or irritation.
Some people do not produce enough tears. or your tears aren’t made of the right balance of substances to keep your eyes moist. this is called dry eye.
There are different causes of dry eye. If there aren’t enough tears to keep your eyes clean, you may have more stringy mucus collecting in the corners of your eyes.
blocked tear duct
Blocked tear ducts can also make more mucus and discharge. when the flow of tears is interrupted, bacteria tend to accumulate.
Blocked tear ducts are especially common in babies. ocular mucus from blocked tear ducts usually improves during the first year of life. but babies should be checked for other sources of irritation and infection.
Blepharitis is when the eyelids become inflamed, irritated or itchy. We all have bacteria that live on our skin. but sometimes, there are too many bacteria on the part of the eyelid where the eyelashes grow. can occur with certain skin conditions or allergies.
Symptoms of blepharitis include irritation, redness, and crusty scales along the eyelid.
conjunctivitis (pink eye)
Conjunctivitis is often called “pink eye” because the eye may turn red or pink and feel sore. It can be caused by infections, allergies, or chemical irritation.
Have your eyes checked by a healthcare provider if you have discharge that lasts all day, especially if your eyes are red or painful.
when to see a professional for eye mucus
There’s usually nothing to worry about in the morning crisps. but there are some symptoms that should prompt a visit to a health care provider, including:
a change in your vision
yellow, green, or more than normal discharge
redness, pain, or a feeling that there is something in the eye
difficulty opening the eyes due to swelling or sticky discharge
how to get rid of snot in the eyes at home
The safest and easiest way to rid your eyes of sleepiness is to gently rinse your eyes with warm water and a clean washcloth. A mild shampoo or facial cleanser can help remove bacteria that build up along the eyelids.
Artificial tears help many people with dry eyes. But you may need to see a health care provider if your symptoms are severe or artificial tears don’t help.
If you have a lot of mucus in your eyes and you constantly feel the need to get rid of it throughout the day, you could be causing more irritation in your eyes. Mucus fishing syndrome is when your eyes produce more mucus due to regular poking and poking to get rid of things that collect in the corners of your eyes. Check with your health care provider if your eye mucus is especially bothersome.
the unnamable is a series that focuses on common curiosities about our bodies that, at some point, have been labeled as taboo, shameful or embarrassing. But these are important questions we all have about our health, and we should be able to ask them. This series aims to dispel stigma, normalize discussion, and openly address these important health issues.
don’t be shy. someone else has the same question, so please ask!