Something in your eye? The causes of gunk and why we get it

How to tell what's normal eye mucus and what's not

What Is Eye Gunk And Why Do We Get It?
Are you worried about eye gunk, sometimes known as 'sleep' in your eyes? Read on to discover what causes it and whether it may indicate a health problem.

See also: Eye-care mistakes you need to stop making

What is eye gunk?

Most of us wake up with gunk in our eyes from time to time. It's caused by oil, mucus, skin cells and other debris that build up in the corners of the eyes to create a thick and crusty discharge - and is perfectly natural.

See also: Are you at risk of cataracts?

Why does it happen when we're sleeping?
Eye gunk doesn't build up when you're awake thanks to new layers of tears created when blinking. But our tears don't get replaced while we're sleeping and it builds up.

What if it's thick or a funny colour?
The eye gunk can vary from thick to sticky depending on the different levels of debris and bacteria in our eye fluids. Usually, it's nothing to worry about. However, the colour of the gunk can indicate if there's a bacterial build-up or infection or not. If it's more yellow or green then that's a sign it's time for a medicated eye solution from a doctor.

Other eye problems to watch for
Conjunctivitis can sometimes cause a sticky coating on the eyelashes. If you have redness, inflammation and itching, see your doctor. Conjunctivitis needs to be treated quickly and can be contagious.

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