It’s not unusual to wake up with eye drainage (often called “sleep”) on or around your eyelid. It’s usually caused by a mixture of tears and mucus. However, if you’ve noticed an increase in eye discharge or a “crust” forming over the entire eyelash area, you may need to see a doctor. Here are some conditions commonly known to cause crusty eyes:

    Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis)

    Pinkeye is a common infection caused by either a virus or bacteria, and both types are quite contagious. If you or your child has pinkeye, you may wake up with eyelids that are swollen and crusty. In many cases, it’s difficult to open the eye until the crust has been removed with a warm, moist towel. Once the eye is open, another telltale symptom is the characteristic eye redness that makes the white of the eye look pink. The infected eye is usually itchy, and excessive tears are common. If you have pinkeye, you should see your doctor for a prescription medication.

    Eye Allergies

    If you suffer from seasonal allergies, crusty eyes are another symptom you can add to your list of annoyances. Oftentimes, eye issues such as itchiness, redness, watering and crusting are the first signs of an allergy. This is commonly referred to as “allergic conjunctivitis,” and it is considered a form of pinkeye. However, it’s not contagious because it’s not an infection. Your doctor may recommend treating your eye allergy with antihistamine drops, decongestants or allergy medications. In severe cases, steroids may be used to control swelling.

    Dry Eye

    Many people experience significant issues with dry eyes. This problem can affect anyone, but it’s particularly prevalent among older adults. Generally, the eye doesn’t produce a sufficient amount of tears, but often times the tears are just not lubricating enough to keep the eye moist. The result is dry eye, which often feels like gritty, itchy, burning eyes. It can cause excess eye drainage and blurry vision as well. If your eyes are dry while you’re sleeping, you may wake up with crusty eyes caused by the excess drainage. Depending on the severity of your dry eye, your doctor may recommend one of several different options. Lubricating eye drops are generally the first line of treatment, though sometimes more aggressive options are needed.

    Blocked Tear Duct

    A blocked tear duct is not as common as some of the other issues mentioned here, but it may be the cause for crusty eyes. While this issue is more common in young children, adults may also experience a blocked tear duct as a result of an eye injury, nose trauma, natural age-related issues and eye-related problems. You’ll normally experience watery eyes and irritation, and you may wake up with a crust along your lower lid, especially in the corner of the eye. The treatment options for a blocked tear duct vary widely depending on the severity and the cause of the blockage. Sometimes, a simple eye massage is enough to open the blockage. If this doesn’t work, your doctor can discuss further options.

    Corneal Infection

    Corneal infections are another less common reason for waking up with crusty eyes. If you suspect you may have a corneal infection, you should see your doctor immediately to prevent eye damage. There are many different causes of corneal infections, but the symptoms are similar. You’ll generally experience sudden pain in the eye, light sensitivity, excessive eye discharge and reduced vision. Bacterial Keratitis is one of the most common forms, and it’s usually caused by contact lens use or an eye injury. Eye drops are the main form of treatment, though you may need additional doctor visits to ensure the drops are working properly.

    If you think you may have any of the above conditions or if your eye discharge is worrisome, please let your eye doctor know. Schedule an appointment to determine the cause of your issue so it can be treated and resolved ASAP.

    Posted September 25, 2016 by Silverstein Eye Centers
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