Eye discharge

What is eye discharge?

Eye discharge (sometimes referred to as rheum or ‘sleep in your eyes’) is usually made up of oil, mucus, skin cells and other particles that have accumulated in the corner of your eye during sleep. Sometimes it’s wet, slimy and sticky, while other times it can be dry, hard and crusty. The discharge is one of the protective functions in your eyes that removes waste products and other potentially harmful particles from the tear film. It shouldn’t be confused with an eye infection, although infections do have similar characteristics. An abnormal amount of discharge, coupled with itchiness and redness could be a sign of infection, especially in cases of conjunctivitis.

What causes eye discharge?

Your eye produces mucus throughout the day, but this is cleared as your eyes produce tears which coat your eyes when you blink. When you’re asleep, you don’t blink, allowing discharge to sometimes collect in the corners of your eyes or along the lash line.

How do I get rid of eye discharge?

Small amounts of discharge are harmless and relatively normal. Worse cases of eye discharge may be a sign of other common eye conditions such as conjunctivitis, blepharitis and allergic reactions. Sometimes, the crust becomes so hard, your eyes will stick together and feel painful as you try to open them. The best antidote is to soak a clean washcloth in warm water and gently rub this along your eyes until the crust softens.

Quick links:


A guide to eye infections
A guide to swollen eyelids
A guide to blurry vision