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Eye Boogers: Types, Causes & How to Get Rid of Them

Eye boogers is a common term for excess mucus building up in the eyes. This is natural and typically not a cause for concern. 

Most people produce discharge from the eyes in tiny quantities and do not find it bothersome. 

If there is a change in health or lifestyle, you may notice that your eyes are producing more eye boogers than normal. This secretion can be sticky and create crusty buildup along the lashes and the eyelid. 

Many people find that it is worse in the morning and can wake up with sleep crust around their eyes. If left unattended, this can create an environment that is favorable for bacteria, irritation, and mucus buildup.

Causes of Eye Boogers

If you’ve recently made changes in your lifestyle or habits, these changes could be causing your eyes to produce excess mucus. Possibilities include the following:

  • New eye products
  • Changes in eye hygiene
  • Climate fluctuations

Evaluate your current lifestyle to determine if any of these differences are contributing to excess mucus.

Types of Eye Discharge

Eye discharge can be related to various causes and conditions, such as these: 

Eye Injury

Eye injury can create swelling, redness, and itchiness. If the area becomes infected, there can be a thick discharge. 

Blocked Tear Duct

If tear ducts are blocked, there can be a thick and sticky discharge. It may be painful. If this is a recurring problem for babies, tear duct surgery may be recommended.

Chalazion

A chalazion is a lump or swelling from a blocked gland on the eyelid. This can create pain and itching, sometimes with a discharge. 

Stye

A stye is similar to a chalazion. It is a lump on the eyelid that can create a mucus-like discharge. 

Foreign Objects

The eye is sensitive to small objects, such as an eyelash, hair, or speck of dust, which can create irritation. This may produce a watery discharge and tenderness. There may also be a mucus secretion.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis can be caused by bacterial or virus infections. It is often accompanied by discharge of white, yellow, or greenish color. This is a highly contagious condition and can be passed between eyes and to other people. 

Eye Infection

Eye infections can create mucus secretions and discharge. These may be from bacterial conjunctivitis or other types of eye infections. The eye may also be swollen and appear pinkish.

Allergies

Allergies can trigger itchiness, inflammation, and mucus discharge in the eyes. 

How to Get Rid of Eye Boogers

There are some easy steps you can follow at home to get rid of eye boogers.

Practice Good Eye Hygiene

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, good eye hygiene can help you manage excess eye boogers. You won’t get rid of them because they are a natural part of how the eye stays clean and healthy, but you may reduce their severity and frequency.

  • Wash your hands before and after touching your eyes.
  • Remove eye makeup each night.
  • Clean the eyelid with a clean warm cloth.
  • Use caution and care when applying eye drops.

Use Warm Compresses

Warm compresses are a traditional home remedy. The mucus secretions can become stuck, and warmth is the ideal way to loosen them. 

  • Wash your hands before and after touching a cloth or your eyes.
  • Apply warm water to a clean, soft washcloth. Make sure the water is not too hot.
  • Gently apply the warm compress to your eyelid.
  • Hold in place for 3 to 5 minutes.

Use Eye Drops

Eye drops help to keep the eye lubricated and hydrated. If you use eye drops, check with your eye doctor for recommendations.

Care for Contact Lenses

If you wear contacts, remove them at night. Take precautions to keep your contacts clean, replace them regularly, and get regular eye exams. 

Shower Before Bed

Showering before bed can help to rinse away pollen, dust, and particles that are causing allergies. At night, eyes are working extra hard to deal with the increase in allergens. With a quick regular shower before bed, you might notice a reduction in the amount of mucus your eyes produce overnight. 

Are Eye Boogers Normal?

Eye boogers are completely normal. They are a natural part of how your eye stays healthy. 

The medical term for eye boogers is rheum. They can be a clear substance or a very light yellow color. In healthy eyes, the release of this substance is barely noticeable. 

During the day, blinking flushes the mucus away and keeps the secretion from hardening. At night, the eye may release more rheum. This is what many people call sleep crust since it becomes harder, crustier, and thicker overnight. 

If the mucus secretion is a dark yellow, green, or extremely thick, it can indicate an infection. 

When to See a Doctor

If you notice changes in your eye boogers (such as secreting a lot more, darker colors, a sludgy consistency, pain, or redness in your eyes), see a doctor. 

If you notice that your eyelids are sticking together every morning, check in with your eye doctor. It is important to rule out other problems such as an infection.

Eye discharge may also become a problem if you are experiencing other symptoms, such as a sudden change in volume, pain on discharge, pain in the eyes, or discharge after an injury. If you experience vision changes, light sensitivity, or redness, this can also indicate a medical problem. See a doctor promptly.

Eye Boogers in Babies

Babies produce eye boogers that are similar in color and consistency to adults. However, babies may have problems with their tear ducts. 

Warm compresses can provide relief. The simplest method is to place lukewarm water on a clean, soft washcloth. Gently place this on your baby’s closed eyes. The warmth helps to soften the eye boogers, and this can usually take care of the problem. 

If the problem does not resolve, see a doctor. If there is redness, irritation, or swelling, your baby may have an eye infection that needs medical attention. 

Eye Booger FAQs

How do you get rid of eye boogers?

If eye boogers are problematic, good eye hygiene and warm compresses may help. To practice good eye hygiene, remove eye makeup every night. Clean your eyes gently, with warm water on a washcloth. 

To help get stagnant mucus flowing, many people find that applying a warm compress to closed eyes is helpful. 

What are eye boogers actually called?

The substance secreted by the eye is called rheum. It is a natural substance and an indication of healthy eye activity.

Is it normal to have eye boogers every morning?

Yes. Eye boogers are natural. Their presence indicates that your eye is healthy and functioning well. Eyes secrete mucus, which helps the eye to stay clean. 

Excessive eye boogers may be a sign of a problem, so talk to your doctor if you experience them.

References

  1. Discharge From Eye. (February 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  2. Why Are My Eyes Crusty? (May 2022). Cleveland Clinic.

  3. What Is Sleep Crust? (March 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  4. Blocked Tear Duct: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention. Cleveland Clinic.

  5. Chalazion (Lump on Eyelid) . Tufts Medical Center Community Care.

  6. What Are Chalazia and Styes? (November 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  7. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention. Cleveland Clinic.

  8. Conjunctivitis Symptoms & Treatment. National Health Service.

  9. Tips and Prevention.  American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  10. Germs & Infections. Healthy Contact Lens Wear and Care. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

  11. Did You Know That the Real Name for Eye Sleepies Is Rheum, and It Doesn’t Only Come From Your Eyes? (November 2018). McGill University.

  12. Meibomian Gland Dysfunction and Treatment. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.

Last Updated November 1, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.