Eye Gunk: what is collecting in the corner of your eyes?

The sandman may lull you to sleep, but he also leaves a few sprinkles behind in the corners of your eyes. People call it sleep, eye goop, crusties or sand, and no matter what you call it, the gunk keeps coming back.

"It is actually medically called rheum," said Dr. Robert Janot, optometrist at Vision Source.

He sees and hears about the eye gunk every day.

"People want to know why theirs in the morning is a certain consistency or what's happening and a lot of times that points us to the diagnosis," said Dr. Janot.

Rheum is a collection of sloughed off cells and debris from tears that collect in the corners of the eyes while sleeping.

"In the evening when we're sleeping we're not blinking, so they sit in the corner get a little bit drier and hence we have the rheum in the morning," said Dr. Janot.

The natural thing to do each morning is to rub the goop out of your eyes.

"The one thing you don't want to do is put your hands or your fingers in your eyes that's just a recipe for infection, yet it's very common," explained Dr. Janot.

He suggested eye drops to moisten the dry crusty bits and a tissue to wipe them away. He added that people should pay attention to the consistency of the "sleep" in their eyes.

"If you start getting the mattering that's very dry and crusty that can be a sign of a dry eye problem," said Dr. Janot.

If it is extremely gunky and sticks around for most of the day, allergies could be in full bloom. Contact wearers will also have some extra mattering in the corners of the eyes.

"Contact lenses cause the eye tissue to slough off a few more cells," said Dr. Janot.

Makeup can turn the goop from gross to infectious.

"It builds up a particularly toxic condition in the corners of the eyes and we see a lot of conjunctivitis just from that," explained Dr. Janot. He warned that leaving eyeliner or mascara on too long could put a person at risk for pink eye.

Next time you clear the goopy, flakey particles from your eyes you will know that Mr. Sandman left you a special and often harmless surprise.

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