I usually get dirt in the corners of my eyes no matter how often I wash them. Is it some sort of eye defect?
Dirt in the corners of eyes or discharge is a combination of oil, dead skin cells, mucus and other debris that gathers in the eyes while sleeping. It can be dry and crusty or wet. It is seen first thing in the morning. Eye discharge has a protective function, removing waste products and potentially harmful debris from the tear film and the front surface of your eyes.
Eyes produce mucus throughout the day, but a continuous thin film of tears removes it while blinking, when awake. But due to absence of blinking during sleep, it tends to accumulate in the eyes.
Discharge can also be due to poor hygiene of the eyes. Not removing eye makeup before sleeping, allergy to products used for eye makeup like mascara, eye liner, among others, can also result in irritation of the eyes and excess discharge. One using contact lenses can have discharge due to multiple reasons. Eye infection due to lack of cleanliness of contact lens, poorly fitting contact lens, allergy to the material of contact lens used, are some of the basic reasons.
A discharge present in excess or present throughout the day or mixed with pus is always due to some underlying infection or eye disease.
Infections of the conjunctiva, whether bacterial or viral, or chlamydia, lead to excess discharge from the eyes. This may be mucus-like or mixed with pus. Sometimes the discharge may be crusty, that it may cause difficulty in opening the eyes. There may be associated redness, itching, pain, one or more of these problems. Infections of the cornea can also cause excess discharge.
Blocking of the tear ducts as possible in auto immune disease like rheumatoid arthritis, eye injury, corneal ulcer, are some of the other disease conditions, which can cause excess discharge.
Improvement in eye hygiene can prevent building up of discharge. Cleaning the eyes with clean, cold water, removing eye makeup before sleeping, avoiding use of any irritant substances over the eyes, avoiding touching the eyes with unclean fingers, are some measures which can prevent excess eye discharge. However, if it is present persistently, it is advisable to consult an eye specialist. All the disease conditions of eyes are treatable.
Dr Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital