It’s a universal experience. You wake up and have crusty bits in the corners of your eye. Some call it “sleep in your eyes,” “gunk,” “eye boogers,” “sleep sand”—it has many names!
What’s that gunk in my eyes?
The optometric term for this substance is “rheum”. It is a mix of mucus, old skin cells, oils and tears. It’s a natural part of healthy eye function.
During waking hours, we blink our eyes and the rheum washes away during the day. However, during sleep, it pools to the corners of the eye due to the fact we aren’t blinking.
For most people, it is not a big deal.
When do I have to worry about it?
However, some people do suffer from conditions which can lead to an unhealthy buildup of rheum. Examples of these conditions are blepharitis, Meibomian gland dysfunction, allergic conjunctivitis and other disorders. For some people, buildup is so severe that their eyes can feel almost “glued shut” in the morning!
Normal rheum is a light cream or yellow colour. If you notice large amounts of rheum or odd coloured discharge or if your experience eye redness or pain, consult your optometrist.
Do this to keep your eyelids clean!
It is important to keep your eyelids clean using a clean, warm washcloth. Add this to your morning routine as a great way to refresh your eyes and face. Your optometrist may recommend certain lid cleansing foams or scrubs to help with stubborn discharge.