Adult or child, the presence of any kind of discharge oozing out of the eye is alarming.
Here are some things to consider whenever you discover crud around the eyes:
First, it’s important to determine if there is any kind of eye emergency. Eye pain, severe redness or abrupt change in vision are signals to contact your eye doctor. This advice is DOUBLY IMPORTANT if you wear contact lenses or if you have had recent eye surgery.
A discharge from the eye can be infectious (bacteria, viral, fungal, etc.) or noninfectious (other causes).
Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is the most common cause of goopy eye discharges.
It’s wise to assume pinkeye is infectious until definitively diagnosed by a health care provider. That means scrupulous handwashing for everyone!
- Bacterial: heavy pus-like material, one or both eyes
- Viral: Clear and watery, starts first in one eye, may feel swollen lymph node near ‘sideburns’ area in front of ears
Noninfectious causes are usually very fixable.
- Allergic: Watery, both eyes are very itchy, eyelid lid swelling
- Tear duct obstruction: Usually seen in infants, goop expresses with gentle pressure along inner corner of the eye
- Dry eyes: Inadequate water in tear film leads to excess mucus, rubbery strands of goop
Until you can get medical care, use a clean moist washcloth to wipe away the crud. Preservative-free artificial tears will make the eyes more comfortable – just be sure not to share the eyedrop container, right?
Next time we’ll learn more about incubation times and pinkeye contagion (how soon before a child can return to school).