While mucus isn’t considered a topic for polite conversation, it’s a natural lubricant that serves many purposes. We couldn’t live without it.
This slippery gelatinous fluid helps filter out irritants and allergens and keeps many organs — including our eyes — moist.
However, if your eyes are secreting sticky mucus, it’s important to take notice. While waking up with a bit of dried mucus in the corners of your eyes is considered normal, eye mucus becomes problematic when you have more than usual, or if it’s accompanied by other uncomfortable eye symptoms that indicate you have an inflammation or infection.
Below, we explore a few common causes for this sticky eye mucus and reveal why the practice of “mucus fishing” can be harmful.
What Causes Sticky Eye Discharge?
There are several reasons why your eyes may secrete a sticky discharge.
Infections or inflammations like conjunctivitis may be the source of your eye stickiness.
Other common causes of excessive eye mucus are blepharitis (eyelid inflammation) and dry eye syndrome (DES). With DES, the cells in your eye’s surface detect dryness and send a message to the brain to produce more mucus for added hydration.
Though it may be tempting to get rid of the gunk with your fingertips or a cotton swab — a popular trend on TikTok known as “eye mucus fishing” — can harm your eye health.
As a rule, your fingers and hands shouldn’t come in direct contact with your eyes, because they can spread harmful microbes and lead to infection. Moreover, a person with dry eye syndrome will exacerbate their symptoms by removing the mucus, as their eye will respond by producing an even greater amount.
If you feel the need to wipe mucus from your eyes, contact The Dry Eye Center at Pacific Rims Optometry to schedule a dry eye consultation and treat your condition in a safe and healthy way.
Dry Eye Syndrome Explained
Dry eye syndrome, also called ocular surface disease, is a chronic state of eye dryness.
A healthy tear film is made up of 3 layers: mucus, water and oil. An imbalance in any of these components can lead to DES. In severe cases, DES can cause corneal ulcers and even vision loss.
What Does Dry Eye Syndrome Feel Like?
Symptoms can range from mild to debilitating and often include one or more of the following:
- Burning eyes
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Eye fatigue
- Excessive eye mucus
- Watery eyes
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
Common causes of DES include:
- Exposure to the elements (wind, sunlight, dry air)
- Environmental pollutants
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Certain medications and health conditions
- Excessive screen time
- Infrequent or incomplete blinking
- Refractive surgery
How Is Dry Eye Syndrome Treated?
Treatment for DES largely depends on its underlying cause. That’s why self-treating your condition with over-the-counter medications and eye drops often doesn’t work.
Your dry eye optometrist will thoroughly evaluate the health of your eyes to determine the root of the problem and provide an effective, tailor-made treatment plan.
That way, your eyes will be able to heal and you’ll enjoy long-lasting relief.
Dry Eye Treatment in San Francisco
At The Dry Eye Center at Pacific Rims Optometry, we offer the latest in dry eye treatment and have state-of-the-art diagnostic technology to determine the underlying cause of your DES.
To schedule your dry eye consultation, call The Dry Eye Center at Pacific Rims Optometry in San Francisco today!
Our practice serves patients from San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Mateo, California and surrounding communities.
Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Selena Chan
A: While there isn’t a foolproof method for preventing dry eye syndrome, certain habits promote a healthy tear film. Wearing protective UV-blocking sunglasses outdoors will help block wind and debris from irritating your eyes. Be sure to stay hydrated and include eye-nourishing nutrients in your diet like Omega-3 fats, antioxidants, niacin, lutein and zeaxanthin. If you live or work in a dry environment, replenish the moisture in the air with a cool-mist humidifier. Ask your optometrist about your risk factors for developing DES and what you can do to keep your eyes feeling fresh.
Q: Can dry eye syndrome cause blindness?
A: Untreated dry eye syndrome can cause severe corneal damage over time, and in very rare cases, blindness. Be sure to have your symptoms addressed by a dry eye optometrist to prevent corneal damage and preserve your healthy vision. Call The Dry Eye Center at Pacific Rims Optometry to schedule your eye exam today.