Waking up with crusty eyes isn’t usually cause for concern … unless your eye discharge is showing signs of abnormalities.
If you’re starting to wonder why you have to wash the eye gunk away every morning, or you’re noticing any other symptoms that don’t seem normal, it might be time to visit your eye doctor or your physician for help.
Eye Mucus Isn’t Always Cause for Concern
Having crusty eyes, or “sleep” in your eyes in the morning, doesn’t mean there is something wrong. It’s a mixture of mucus, oil and skin cells that accumulate while you sleep. It may not actually be crusty — if the liquids haven’t evaporated, it may still be wet and sticky.
Eye mucus is important. It acts as a protective coating that removes waste and debris from the outer surface of the eye. That’s right — you have discharge on your eyes all day long. But since you’re awake and blinking, it’s removed before it has a chance to gather in the corners and harden.
Normal vs. Abnormal Discharge
Crusty eyes are a cause for concern when the discharge starts to turn green or yellow. And when you’re experiencing additional symptoms like eye pain, blurry vision or light sensitivity, abnormal eye discharge points to an underlying health issue.
Common Reasons for Abnormal Discharge
One of the most common reasons for abnormal crusty eyes is conjunctivitis. It will hurt to blink because your eyes will be totally encrusted. It might even feel like they’re stuck when you wake up. Your eyes will be bloodshot, and if the cause is a viral infection, your case of conjunctivitis is extremely contagious until you’re better, which may take up to 10 days. Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotics.
Another common cause of abnormal eye discharge is a sty. This is when an eyelash follicle becomes infected and the whole eyelid becomes red and inflamed. It may produce pus and lead to crusty eyes. It may be uncomfortable to blink and move the eye.
Blepharitis is when the eyelid becomes inflamed and the eye produces yellow or green pus. You may also notice foam-like discharge which causes your eye to crust over.
When Should You Call Your Doctor?
Call your doctor when you notice a change in the amount, consistency or color of your morning eye discharge. You can use a warm washcloth to wipe away crust and relieve pain when you wake up in the morning. Your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce discomfort and help you heal.
Salt Lake Eye Associates can help you learn more about what’s normal and what’s not when you’re waking up with crusty eyes. Call today to set up an appointment to assess your eye health.