Sleep in the Eyes (Eye Discharge)

Image of an elderly woman rubbing her eyes.

Sometimes referred to as "sleep" or eye matter, eye discharge that appears in normal consistency upon waking is a typical part of your body's defense mechanisms, protecting your eyes from bacteria or other irritants. Eye discharge that appears in abnormal consistency, color, or quantities might be a sign of a more serious condition and should be brought to the attention of an eye care profession right away.

Causes of Abnormal Eye Discharge

Abnormal eye discharge usually indicates an underlying condition -- sometimes bacterial, viral, or allergy related. One of the most common causes of abnormal eye discharge is conjunctivitis (pink eye), which refers to the inflammation of the conjunctiva (the lining of the underside of the eyelid and white of the eye). Conjunctivitis occurs due to contagious bacterial and viral infections as well as allergies. In addition, conditions such as ocular herpes, Acanthamoeba keratitis, blepharitis, and styes also lead to excessive or abnormal eye discharge.

Some issues which are not infectious can lead to abnormal eye discharge as well. These include chronic dry eyes, a blocked tear duct, sensitivity to contact lenses, an eye injury, and a corneal ulcer.

Abnormal Eye Discharge Symptoms

Symptoms of abnormal eye discharge include discharge which might be thicker, gooier, or more excessive than normal. Abnormal eye discharge might also be a different color than normal such as green, yellow, or even grey. In addition to these variances, one might notice the following symptoms:

  • dry eyes
  • watery eyes
  • itchy eyes
  • eye pain
  • double or blurred vision
  • red eyes
  • light sensitivity (photophobia)
  • swollen eyelids

If a bacterial or viral infection is present, symptoms such as body aches, chills, fever, sneezing, and/or coughing might accompany the above-mentioned eye symptoms.

A change in normal eye discharge alone or accompanied by any of these symptoms should be brought to an eye care professional’s attention, as it is usually the sign of a more serious underlying problem.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Eye care professionals diagnose the cause of abnormal eye discharge by looking at the patient's medical history and performing an eye exam. If a corneal ulcer is present, the eye care professional will likely test a sample to determine whether or not an infection is present.

Treatment for abnormal eye discharge depends on the diagnosis of the underlying cause, and might include oral antibiotics, antibiotic eye drops, antihistamines, or antihistamine eye drops. To alleviate symptoms at home, eye care professionals often recommend using a warm, wet compress.

Sign up now

New Patients receive 15% OFF Second Pair of Complete Glasses!

Location

Find us on the map

Testimonial

  • "Awesome doctor. Very professional, very personable, and very efficient. Sent my whole family to her and they all agree."
    Gina M. / Cranston, RI

Featured Articles

Read up on informative topics

  • How To Read Your Eyeglass Prescription

    Have you ever wondered what your eyeglass prescription says about your vision? ...

    Read More
  • Are Floaters A Sign Of Something Bigger?

    Worried about floaters? Find out when this common vision symptom can be a sign of a serious problem. ...

    Read More
  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Why do I need to see an eye care provider? Many “silent” diseases, such as glaucoma and diabetes, can only be detected through regular eye exams. When these conditions are discovered earlier rather than later, they become easier to treat or manage, allowing for better long-term preservation of eyesight. ...

    Read More
  • Pediatric Ophthlamology

    Ophthalmology addresses the physiology, anatomy and diseases of the eyes. Pediatric ophthalmology focuses on the eyes of children. Pediatric ophthalmologists examine children’s eyes to see if they need corrective lenses or other treatments to improve their vision. Training for Pediatric Ophthalmologists Pediatric ...

    Read More
  • Allergies

    Caused by the same irritants as hay fever, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing, eye allergies commonly affect those who suffer from other allergy symptoms. Not only do eye allergies cause discomfort, but they can also interfere with daily activities. Eye Allergy Causes Medically referred to as allergic ...

    Read More
  • Learning-Related Vision Problems

    Learning disabilities may include dyslexia, math disorder, writing disorder, auditory processing deficits, or visual processing deficits. Although each child with a learning disability is unique, many also have associated visual problems. Addressing these vision disorders may alleviate some symptoms ...

    Read More
  • UV Radiation and Your Eyes

    Optometry warnings about the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation on our eyes have not yet reached the degree of public awareness of that of skin damage. Yet, the sun can be just as damaging upon our eyes with unprotected exposure. Short-term exposure to very bright sunlight can result in a type ...

    Read More
  • How To Protect Your Eyes While Wearing Halloween-Themed Contact Lenses

    Spooky novelty contact lenses can make your Halloween costume even scarier, but are they safe? ...

    Read More
  • Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy

    Fuchs' dystrophy (pronounced fooks DIS-truh-fee) is an eye disease characterized by degenerative changes to the cornea’s innermost layer of cells. The cause for Fuchs' dystrophy is not fully understood. If your mother or father has the disease, then there is roughly a 50 percent chance that you will ...

    Read More
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration

    One of the leading causes of vision loss in people who are age 50 or older is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This common eye condition leads to damage of a small spot near the center of the retina called the macula. The macula provides us with the ability to clearly see objects that are straight ...

    Read More

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles