What is Discharge from the eyes?

Discharge from the eyes is a common complaint that can be caused by a variety of reasons. Eye dryness, bacterial or viral infections (sometimes known as ‘pink eye’) or tear duct blockages can all cause discharge from the eye.


The accumulation of eye mucus in the corners of the eyes is common during sleep and can be easily removed. However, discharge, especially if accompanied by sticky eyelids in the morning, is usually an indication of a bacterial infection within the eye. This discharge can cause the eyes to feel like they are “glued shut” in the morning. It can also be seen accumulating on the eyelashes, eyelids, or corners of the eyes.


Different types of eye mucus have different causes. Common types of eye discharge and their potential causes include:


  • Yellow Mucus – may be caused by a stye if accompanied by a small lump on the eyelid
  • White/Yellow Balls of Mucus – common sign of Dacryocystitis or tear drainage infection
  • Thick, Crusty Mucus – may be caused by Blepharitis
  • Stringy, White Mucus – may represent Allergic Conjunctivitis
  • Watery Mucus – may be caused by Viral Conjunctivitis
  • Small, Dry Particles of Mucus – a sign of Dry Eye Syndrome


Conjunctivitis, or “pink eye,” is a culprit for eye discharge, and is caused by an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a clear mucous membrane that lines the inside of the eyelid and on the sclera (white part of the eye). Conjunctivitis can have many causes, including viral, bacterial and allergies. It is important to see your eye doctor to determine the cause of conjunctivitis so they can prescribe the proper course of treatment.


If you are experiencing thick green or grey discharge, it may be due to a bacterial eye infection. Bacterial Conjunctivitis is caused by pus-producing bacteria that will cause eye symptoms such as redness and irritation. This type of discharge can make it difficult to open your eyes in the morning, giving them the feeling of being “glued shut.” While pink eye rarely causes long-term vision damage, an untreated infection could become quite serious and cause vision loss and other health concerns. It is important to see your eye doctor promptly for diagnosis and to begin treatment.


Depending on the cause of discharge, treatments can include anything from simple dry eye therapies to prescription medications. Your optometrist has the equipment and diagnostic skills to properly diagnose and treat your eye discharge.


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