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What Your Eye Gunk Says About Your Health

In many cultures the auspicious and mythical sandman brings pleasant dreams. The telltale sand he leaves behind is a sign he has visited but no one wants to discover their eyes are sealed shut with discharge and pus in the morning.

Rheum, the technical name for the crusty and often sandy discharge that forms by your eyes when you sleep, is generally no cause for alarm. It consists of mucus, oil, dust, cells and other debris. One reason it is found at the corner of your eye is because your eyelids close from cheek side to nose. This pushes rheum into its familiar location.
In most cases you can simply clear off the rheum, which is often referred to as eye gunk, eye discharge, eye boogers, crust or simply “sleep.” But you should sit up and take notice if this discharge changes in a significant way. Rheum that is no longer clear, is present in larger volumes, has a different texture or emits a foul odor may signify a potential health issue.

Top 10 Home Remedies provided a list of seven common forms of eye gunk and what these may say about your health. The first condition listed was rheum that is crustier and thicker than usual. This could be a symptom of eyelid inflammation or blepharitis. This condition often results in eyelashes being matted together to the point where it is difficult to open your eyes. A warm compress and good eyelid hygiene can potentially fight this inflammation. 

A much more disturbing turn of event is when your eye discharges yellow and green gunk. This sticky discharge can almost glue your eyelids shut and is a sign of conjunctivitis, which is more commonly referred to as pink eye. Pink eye can affect people of all ages, from babies to adults. However, it tends to appear more among children and the elderly, most likely due to their weak immune systems. 

There are four main types of pink eye, but only two are contagious. Allergic and irritant conjunctivitis are caused by allergens and exposure to foreign objects. The remaining two types of pink eye are contagious, namely viral and bacterial conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis normally occurs when you have a cold, because virus-containing droplets from a sneeze may land on your eyes. I have created a handy guide that contains all the information you need to know about pink eye. The introductory article can be found here

Yellow crust and styes around your eyes occur when bacteria gets into the oil glands in your eyelids. This condition can lead to soreness and create the sensation that something is in your eyes. A stye may develop on your eyelid in the Meibomian gland duct. These irritations present as red lumps along the edge of the eyelid. While they can be annoying or painful, they are rarely serious. Styes can often be successfully treated at home, but before determining your course of treatment, you’ll want to make sure you’re not dealing with chalazion or cellulitis, which may require other or additional medical treatment.

Eye styes generally heal in a couple of weeks and the condition is exacerbated by makeup and contact lenses. Lancing, popping or bursting a stye is not advisable. For more information on how to clear up this condition make sure you read “How to Get Rid of a Stye In Your Eye.” An infection on your eyelid has the potential for reaching your eye socket or your eye, increasing your risk of vision loss. For instance, if your stye is bleeding, affecting your vision, causing pain to the eyeball rather than just the lid, turning your eyelid itself bright red, inflaming the adjacent areas, growing in size or forcing your eye permanently closed it may be time to treat seek medical attention. 

Watery discharge from your eyes is often an early indicator of a common cold. Click here for a list of natural cold remedies. On the opposite end of the spectrum is eye discharge that is extremely thick and sticky. This could be due to dacryocystitis. This occurs when a tear duct gets blocked and bacteria builds up in the sac. 

I have often cautioned against the use of contact lenses. The microflora of the eye differ in people who wear contact lenses and those who do not. Glasses would be far less disruptive although even better solutions are available. The Bates method can help you retrain your eyes to see clearly again. 

If your vision is being impaired by a pus then it is time to see your doctor. This problem is often caused by corneal ulcers and once again the most common culprit is the contact lenses. Expired soft contact lenses should not be left in for extended periods of time. Apart from the potential dangers of obstructed vision, a corneal ulcer may also cause pain and light sensitivity. Like conjunctivitis, this condition may have a telltale odor.