Like morning breath, dirt in your eyes is one of those unpleasant things you often come across when you wake up. Although a little dirt in the eyes is totally normal, there are some circumstances, such as a change in the color, consistency or amount of eye discharge, that can indicate something more serious.
Why do you have snot in your eyes?
Clear eye discharge
Snot in the eyes that are lighter in color can be a normal response to minor irritation from the environment . The eye increases tear and mucin production as a mechanism to trap irritants and remove them from the ocular surface.
There is nothing to worry about – this type of discharge should go away within 48 hours.
White eye discharge
White eye discharge is usually associated with itchiness, redness, swollen eyelids and a foreign body sensation (the sensation that there is something in the eye), it is a sign of allergies and your body's immune response to something that is usually harmless.
The best way to treat allergies is to eliminate or avoid the allergen (dust, dander, pollen). So, for example, to stay away from pollen, leave the windows closed and use air conditioning in your house. And try not to rub your eyes, which can increase irritation. You can also use artificial tears and antihistamines or get an allergy shot to help control allergies.
In many cases, white eye discharge can also result from dry eyes. Over-the-counter dry eye therapy, such as artificial tears, eye drops, or a nighttime lubricating eye ointment , can bring relief, but always see an ophthalmologist if symptoms worsen or progress.
Still, in other cases, discharge from white eyes can indicate a condition called blepharitis , which is inflammation along the eyelid. Blepharitis has several causes, ranging from meibomian gland dysfunction, staphylococcal infection, or seborrheic inflammation, and can be associated with skin conditions such as dandruff or rosacea.
In addition to discharge, you may also notice redness of the eyelids, burning, frothy tears, crusting, an occasional foreign body sensation, and in severe cases, deviation of the direction of the lashes, loss of lashes and blurred vision.
Warm compresses and eyelid scrubs are usually sufficient to solve this problem.
Yellow or green eye discharge
If your eye oozes a yellow or green discharge, you likely have an infection . Yellow discharge can be seen with bacterial and viral infections, while green discharge is more typical of a bacterial infection.
Viral infections may present with fever, upper respiratory infection, swollen preauricular lymph nodes just in front of the ears, skin lesions on the eyelid, foreign body sensation, redness, sensitivity to light, pain, and decreased of vision.
However, a large amount of clear discharge can also indicate viral conjunctivitis .
Your doctor may prescribe topical lubricating drops / ointments, cold compresses , and, in some cases, a topical or oral antiviral medication.
Bacterial infections, most commonly caused by Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Hemophilus influenzae, develop more quickly. The source of the infection is often related to poor hand hygiene, excessive use of contaminated contact lenses or cosmetics, but bacterial conjunctivitis can also be associated with eye diseases such as dry eye or blepharitis.
Treatment includes artificial tears, cold compresses, antibiotic drops, and, in more severe cases, oral medication.
Sticky eye discharge
Although sticky eye discharge can be associated with a bacterial infection, it can sometimes also be related to a poor eyelid position. For example, some people experience laxity of the upper or lower eyelids, a condition called ectropion , which causes the eyelid to be in an abnormal position, causing inflammation, irritation, and mucus accumulation.
The doctor may start with a conservative treatment such as lubricating drops and ointment, but ultimately an eye surgeon may need to perform an adjustment procedure to resolve it permanently.
Floppy eyelid syndrome is another condition that, when severe, can also cause a sticky discharge. This is a disease of the elastin fibers in the eyelid that causes the eyelid to open when sleeping, which can lead to irritation and increased discharge.
To treat floppy eyelid syndrome, your doctor may prescribe lubrication, as well as cover your eyelids and wear eye shields to keep your eyes closed and prevent them from dropping during sleep.
Do you wake up with crusty eyes? Most likely, the culprit for eye scab is dryness. It is recommended to start with OTC dry eye therapy such as artificial tears and night gel.
Crusting of the eyes is also commonly associated with blepharitis . Inflammation along the eyelids causes a crust to form at the base of the lashes along the eyelid.
Again, this problem can be solved with warm compresses and eyelid scrubs.