Eye discharge has a protective function that helps to remove waste products and potentially harmful debris from the tear film and the front surface of your eyes.
Sometimes called rheum, eye discharge or “sleep” in your eyes is a combination of mucus, oil, skin cells and other debris that accumulates in the corner of your eye while you sleep. During the daytime your eyes produce mucus, but a constant thin film of tears coats your eyes when you blink, flushing out the rheum before it hardens in your eyes.
When you wake up, some rheum is normal, but excessive discharge, especially if it’s green or yellow, and accompanied by light sensitivity, pain or blurry vision, could indicate a serious eye infection or disease and should be examined by your Optometric Physician immediately.
There are multiple conditions associated with abnormal eye discharge including conjunctivitis, or an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that lines the “white” of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. Three types of conjunctivitis are viral, bacterial and allergic varieties.
A stye is a clogged Meibomian gland at the base of the eyelid. It is commonly caused by an infected eyelash follicle.
Blepharitis is a chronic disorder of the eyelids and describes either inflammation of the eyelash hair follicles or abnormal oil production from the Meibomian glands at the inner edge of the eyelids.
An eye injury, corneal ulcer, or blocked tear duct will also cause discharge.
William C. Womble, O.D.
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