Sticky Eyes: What It Is and How to Properly Manage It

Wet or crusted discharge in the eyes is common in people who have allergies or cold. This discharge can cause the eyes to feel wet, gummy, or are glued shut. This condition is commonly known as sticky eyes.

Sticky eyes are caused by accumulated collection of skin cells, oil, debris, and mucus in the corner of the eyes. It is not often an emergency condition but recurring and excessive sticky eyes can be a sign of infection.

Sticky Eyes

Symptoms of Sticky Eyes

The most common symptom of sticky eyes is gummy-like consistency of eye discharge that may spread across the eyelid. The color and consistency of this mucus is often a determinant of other serious medical conditions such as an infection. Some discharge colors or consistencies to watch out for include:

  • yellow discharge
  • excessive watery discharge
  • thick, crusty discharge residue
  • thick green or gray discharge

Other accompanying symptoms may include:

  • inability to fully open the eyes
  • burning sensation in the eyes
  • dry eyes
  • blurry vision
  • itchy and painful eyes
  • light sensitivity
  • red eyes
  • flu-like symptoms

What Causes the Eyes to Feel Sticky?

Mucus is normally produced throughout the day as part of the normal tear production. This helps remove waste from the eyes and keeps it well-lubricated. However, if the tear ducts become blocked, mucus may accumulate and spread around the eyes which often occurs while asleep. Conditions that may cause sticky eyes may include:

  • conjunctivitis
  • blepharitis
  • styes
  • corneal ulcer
  • dry eye syndrome
  • dacryocystitis
  • herpes

Sticky Eyes

Treating sticky eyes

Various home remedies may be able to treat sticky eyes. Make sure to wash hands thoroughly before removing dirt, debris, and bacteria in the eyes. If the eyes cannot be opened because of discharge, place a warm washcloth, and gently wipe the eyes to loosen the dried mucus. A warm washcloth may also be used as a warm compress to relieve itching and irritation.

If sticky eyes are caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotic eye drops or ointments may be prescribed by your doctor. If this condition is from allergies or cold, over-the-counter medications and antihistamines may also help eliminate symptoms.

If you notice any symptoms after using eye products or makeup, immediately stop and throw away any of the remaining products to prevent further irritation in the eyes. If you are wearing contact lenses, make sure to thoroughly clean and care for your contact lenses to prevent infection.

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