It is quite normal to experience some discharge from the eyes from time to time. This thin fluid – called rheum – is designed to wash the eyes clear of dust and small particles that might otherwise affect your sight. When sleeping, the debris is sometimes not washed away properly, and dries into a thin crust in the corners of your eyes and in your lashes. It is usually a simple matter to wash it away, and then go about your day.
However, sometimes discharge from the eye can be a bit more serious. If the discharge coming from your eyes – or just one eye – is thicker and appears more like pus, it may be a sign of an eye infection. Eye infections are caused by injuries to the eye which become inflamed, by dirt or particles becoming stuck in the eye, or a disease such as conjunctivitis.
Injuries to the eye can affect your sight in the long term as well as being painful when they happen. If anything happens to your eye that is very painful or causes a loss of sight (including blurriness or double vision) immediately consult a health professional – the time to save your sight is at the time of injury, not a couple of weeks later by which time the damage has been done.
Foreign bodies in the eye
We have all caught something in our eye at one time or another, and know that horrible feeling of trying to clean it out without hurting the eye more! Sometimes, some hard, abrasive particles can become stuck in the soft inner surface of the eyelid, scratching and irritating the eye-ball with every blink or eye movement. When this happens, your eye may first tear up to try and wash out the offending speck, but it may then produce a thicker discharge in an effort to cushion the eyeball from further damage. If you have tried to remove such a particle from your eye without success, do not leave it to work itself out – go to a doctor who will be able to whisk it out in no time, and who will be able to advise you on the best way to look after your eye while it heals.
Conjunctivitis causes pain and usually presents with an oozing green, yellow or white mucus that dries into a brittle crust overnight. It can occasionally ‘glue’ the eyelids together, necessitating gentle washing with warm water and a clean cloth to ease the eye open again. Conjunctivitis is also called ‘pink eye’ and can be highly contagious, so be sure to keep your face cloth separate from others, and wash it in very hot water should you be diagnosed with the condition.