Causes of eye discharge


Causes of eye discharge

Sleep in your eyes usually isn't cause for alarm, but if you notice a difference in consistency, color and quantity of eye discharge, it could indicate an eye infection or disease.

Common eye conditions associated with abnormal eye discharge include:

Conjunctivitis. Eye discharge is a common symptom of conjunctivitis (pink eye), an inflammation of the thin membrane that lines the "white" of the eye (sclera) and the inner surface of the eyelids.

In addition to itchy, gritty, irritated and red eyes, conjunctivitis typically is accompanied by white, yellow or green eye mucus which can form a crust along the lash line while you sleep. In some cases, eyelid crusting can be so severe that it temporarily seals your eye shut.

There are three types of pink eye:

1.      Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and is caused by a virus such as the common cold or herpes simplex virus. Eye discharge associated with viral pink eye typically is clear and watery, or it may include white or slightly yellow mucus.

2.      Bacterial conjunctivitis, as the name indicates, is caused by a bacterial infection. It can be sight-threatening if not treated promptly. Eye discharge from bacterial conjunctivitis usually is thicker and more purulent (pus-like) than viral pink eye, and is commonly yellow, green or even gray in color. Often, the sticky mattering will cause your eyelids to feel completely glued shut upon waking in the morning.

3.      Allergic conjunctivitis is triggered by allergens — pollen, dander, dust and other common irritants that cause eye allergies. It also can be caused by an allergic reaction to chemical pollutants, makeup, contact lens solutions, and eye drops. Eye discharge associated with allergic conjunctivitis typically is watery. Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and always affects both eyes.

Other eye infections. In addition to conjunctivitis, there are many eye infections that cause abnormal eye discharge. These include:

  • Eye herpes (a recurrent viral eye infection)
  • Fungal keratitis (a rare but serious inflammation of the cornea)
  •  Acanthamoeba keratitis (a potentially blinding parasitic infection typically caused by poor contact lens hygiene or swimming while wearing contacts).

Discharge from an eye infection varies considerably — it could be clear and watery or thick, green and sticky — so make sure you see your eye doctor promptly for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Blepharitis. A chronic disorder of the eyelids, blepharitis describes either inflammation of the eyelash hair follicles or abnormal oil production from the meibomian glands at the inner edge of the eyelids.

Meibomian gland dysfunction. Also called MGD, this malfunctioning of oil glands in the eyelid can cause foamy eye discharge, eyelid crusting, as well as yellow or green eye pus, among other irritating and often painful symptoms.

Stye. A stye is a clogged meibomian gland at the base of the eyelid, typically caused by an infected eyelash follicle. Also called a hordeolum, it resembles a pimple on the eyelid margin and is commonly accompanied by redness, swollen eyelids and tenderness in the affected area. Yellow pus, eyelid crusting and discomfort while blinking also can occur.

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Journal of optometry : open access