Eye boogers refer to mucus or pus left behind in the eye. Some causes include eye products, infections, debris near the eye, and seasonal allergies.

When mucus dries in the eyes, it can leave behind this sludgy substance. Some people refer to it as having “sleep” in the eyes. Eye drops and eye hygiene practices may help stop them.

Mucus helps protect the eyes from specks of dirt, harmful chemicals, and other foreign materials. Eye boogers are harmless, but changes in discharge from the eyes can give clues to health concerns someone may have.

This article discusses the causes of eye boogers. It also goes over types and how to get rid of them.

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Everyone produces the mucus that causes eye boogers. This is normal in healthy eyes. However, some changes in lifestyle or eye health may cause the eyes to produce excess mucus. These changes can also make it more likely that the rheum or fluid sticks to the eyes.

Causes of excess mucus include:

  • Eye products: Some eye products, such as cosmetics or contact lenses, may irritate the eyes and cause them to produce more mucus.
  • Dirt and debris near the eyes: When the eyes have accumulated debris around them, such as when a person sleeps without cleaning off mascara, they can become irritated. The eyes will produce extra mucus that can then get trapped in the eyes and on the eyelashes.
  • Changes in the weather or climate: Some people produce more discharge at certain times of the year, such as during allergy season or cold weather.

Healthy rheum is clear or light yellow. It may be hard, sludgy, or thin after sleeping, but should not be noticeable during the day.

If the mucus is very thick, green, dark yellow, or occurs with pain or redness in the eyes, it may be a sign of an eye infection. Anyone with these symptoms should speak with a healthcare professional.

In addition to healthy mucus, there are many other types of eye discharge. Some infections and eye health conditions may cause abnormal or painful eye discharge.

Conjunctivitis or pink eye

Pink eye causes the eye to be red and irritated. There may be green, white, or yellow discharge.

Some people feel like something is trapped in the eye. This can be the result of bacteria, viruses, or an allergic reaction.

Bacterial conjunctivitis or other eye infections

Some forms of conjunctivitis are bacterial and require antibiotics.

These infections can make the eye pink and swollen, painful, and may cause a fever.

Stye or chalazion

Styes and chalazia are blocked glands in the eyelids. They usually cause a swelling or lump. They can be painful and itchy but usually go away on their own with warm compresses.

Eye injury

An injury to the eye, such as a scratched cornea, can cause the eye to swell and itch. It may feel as if there is something in the eye. If the injury becomes infected, there may be a thick discharge.

A blocked tear duct

This can cause sticky, thick eye mucus, and may be painful.

An object in the eye

Contact lenses can dry up and become stuck in the eye and may roll near the top of the eyelid. An eyelash or other small object can also irritate the eye.

The eye may become very watery and tender and may be sensitive to light and produce mucus.

Babies produce eye mucus and may develop eye infections. A baby who has eye discharge similar to that of an adult is usually healthy, however.

Newborns may have tear ducts that are not fully developed. This can cause the ducts to become blocked. Babies with blocked tear ducts may have green or yellow mucus all day and not just when they wake up. This can usually be managed at home with warm compresses.

If the eye becomes tender, red, or swollen, the baby may have an infection and will need to see a healthcare professional.

Children whose blocked tear ducts do not improve by their first birthday may need surgery to open the tear duct.

Learn more about eye discharge in newborns and toddlers.

Most eye boogers are a sign that the eye is healthy and that it is getting rid of dirt and debris.

Good eye hygiene, including removing makeup at night and keeping the eyes clean by wiping the closed eyes with a clean, warm washcloth, can help reduce eye discharge.

In people with dry eyes, eye drops may also help.

People with contact lenses who want to reduce their eye boogers should remove their contacts at night. They should also replace their contacts as directed by their eye doctor and use the appropriate solutions to clean their lenses.

Some people notice more eye boogers after sleeping. They can use a washcloth soaked in warm water to gently rub the eyes and remove the sleep crust.

If there is enough discharge to cause the eyelids to stick shut in the morning, a person should speak to an eye healthcare professional to rule out an infection.

Below are some common questions about eye boogers.

Should people remove eye boogers?

Removing eye boogers is important to prevent any of the dirt or debris they contain from getting in the eye. People can use a warm compress to loosen eye boogers and gently wipe them away with a damp cloth.

What causes eye boogers in the morning?

Eye boogers can occur as the eye flushes away excess mucus and does not always indicate a problem. However, in some cases, excess mucus may indicate an infection.

What does a lot of eye boogers mean?

Excess eye mucus can indicate an infection, especially if it occurs alongside other symptoms, such as pain, redness, or changes in vision. People should speak with a healthcare professional if they experience these symptoms.

What virus causes eye boogers?

Eye boogers are not always an indication of a health problem and can occur as the eye naturally removes excess mucus. However, some viruses can lead to increased eye mucus, such as viral conjunctivitis.

People with eye mucus and other symptoms of a viral infection should speak with a doctor for a full diagnosis.

Eye boogers form due to a buildup of mucus in the eyes. This can be due to a variety of factors, including injury, an object in the eye, sleep, and eye products.

If the discharge is green, dark yellow, or occurs along with pain or redness, a person should speak with a healthcare professional. This can be a sign of an infection.

Individuals can remove sleep crust or eye boogers from their eyes using a warm, damp washcloth to gently rub it away.