I have a friend who always has a disgusting yellow discharge in the corner of her eyes. At first, I thought she was suffering from some sort of eye defect but after I escorted her to an eye clinic myself, she was told she was fine and that she just needed to clean her eyes more often.
But I still think something is wrong, I mean, how is it I don’t get it? I understand dirty eyes in the morning but after one has washed their face, shouldn’t their eyes be clean for a while? She seems to have that stuff all the time and it is horrible to look at. What can she do about it?
Usually a dirty yellow crusty discharge from the eyes is common, first thing in the morning. It is part of the eye’s defence mechanism to protect the eyes. But if it is persistent or present any other time of the day, if there is associated pain, redness, swelling, pus discharge, blurred vision, any one or more of these symptoms then it needs medical attention.
Discharge from the eye can be at any age and in both genders. There are many reasons for eye discharge. It can simply be due to poor hygiene, where the discharge and crust deposits are not cleaned regularly. Not removing eye make while sleeping, heavy eye makeup, smudging of mascara or other products inside eye and causing irritation, use of dirty fingers to apply makeup or use of contact lenses without cleaning them regularly contribute to and aggravate the discharge. Any visual defect even if mild leads to repeated rubbing of the eyes by the person to see better and this can cause chronic infection and discharge.
Swimming in water bodies without eye protection can result in irritation of eyes due to exposure to large quantity of water and the chlorine present in it. Eyes can also be infected while swimming if water is contaminated.
Any infection of the eye can lead to discharge, but it is more prominent with bacterial infections. Usually infection and inflammation of the conjunctiva (the inside red, upper and lower margins of eyes) causes intense pain, itching and redness of the eyes and is associated with mucoid or mucopurulent discharge. Untreated, the infection can spread to the eye lids.
Allergy to some environmental substance or any beauty product can cause irritation of the eyes and also a discharge. Dryness, exposure to cold or hot draughts of air, exposure to chemicals, dust and or smoke, are other causes which can lead to discharge from eyes.
Your friend should first improve her personal hygiene regarding eyes. It is important to clean the discharge regularly with a soft clean tissue or cotton cloth. Unclean fingers should never be put over or inside eyes. Any eye makeup used should be cleaned very well before sleeping. After exposure to dust or heat as in travelling, along with the face, eyes should also be washed with cool, clean water. If one is using contact lenses, it is vital to keep them clean and not in use for 24 hours continuously. If there is any impairment of vision, even though mild, it is advisable to get the eyes tested for vision and use suitable eye glasses if prescribed.
Dr. Rachna is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital.