Sticky eyes: Causes, treatment, and prevention – Medical News Today
July 29, 2021
People may use the term sticky eyes to describe when a wet or sticky discharge causes the eyelid to feel as though it is stuck together. The condition can occur due to various conditions that affect the eyes, such as styes, conjunctivitis, and blepharitis.
However, it is normal to have some crustiness around the eyes at times when waking up.
In this article, we discuss the possible causes of sticky eyes. We also look at the treatment options and ways to prevent sticky eyes from occurring.
“Sticky eyes” is one way a person may refer to discharge from the eyes that feels gooey, crusty, or sticky.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, waking up with some sticky or crustiness around the eyes is normal. This discharge is the result of not blinking during the night and various debris and mucus depositing at the corners of the eyes.
In some cases, medical conditions may cause the eyes to develop a crusty, sticky layer of mucus.
Medical conditions such as blepharitis, dry eye, and conjunctivitis are common causes of sticky eyes.
Blepharitis is a common condition that causes the eyelids to become:
red or discolored
It can also cause crusty flakes to appear on the eyelashes.
It typically occurs when a person has too much bacteria on their eyelids at the base of their eyelashes. It can also happen if the oil glands in the eyelids become blocked.
There are two types of blepharitis: anterior and posterior.
Anterior blepharitis develops due to bacteria on the skin or dandruff. It affects the outside of the eye, where a person’s eyelashes attach to the eyelid.
Posterior blepharitis occurs when the oil glands become clogged. It affects the inner edge of a person’s eyelid.
Treatment includes warm compresses and antibiotics.
A person can also perform a Crigler massage on themselves or the affected infant. They can do this by placing the index finger in the corner of the eye and rolling the finger downward. It is important to wash the hands thoroughly before and after doing this.
Chronic dry eye occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears. According to the AOA, causes can include either poor quality tears or not enough tears. Common symptoms can include:
treating other conditions around the eyes causing the issue
increasing tear production
Several other conditions may cause sticky eyes to form. These can include:
foreign objects in the eye
unclean contact lenses
damage or injury to the eyes
A person should speak with a doctor if they experience sticky or crusty eyelids or lashes. A person’s doctor can diagnose and recommend treatment for the underlying condition, which will help the crusty eye clear.
Sticky eyes are common in newborns and young children. They can occur due to a blocked tear duct. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), 1 in 5 babies are born with tear ducts that have not yet fully developed.
A parent or caregiver may notice sticky substances in the corner of the eyes or see that the eyelashes have clumped together. It can affect one or both eyes.
Although the blocked tear duct will usually clear up without any intervention, a parent or caregiver may need to clean the baby’s eyes using a clean piece of cotton wool.
In some cases, people may confuse a blocked tear duct with conjunctivitis. Anyone who notices discharge alongside red or pink whites of the eyes in a child in their care should take them to see a doctor.
If the whites of the eyes do not turn red or pink, the cause is likely to be a blocked tear duct.
Another cause of sticky eyes in babies is dacryocystitis. A parent or caregiver should contact a healthcare professional if they suspect this condition, as antibiotics may be necessary.
Hot or cold compresses can help soothe the symptoms of sticky eyes. A person can use a dampened washcloth using either hot or cold water for temporary relief. A cloth can also help with cleaning the eye. However, if only one eye is sticky, it is important to avoid using the washcloth to wipe the other eye, as doing this might spread the infection.
Artificial tears may also help in some situations. A person should speak with a doctor before using artificial tears if they are unsure of the exact cause of the irritation.
A person should avoid wearing contacts when their eyes or the areas around their eyes have become irritated. Contacts can further irritate the eyes.
If an infant or child has a new or persistent sticky eye, it is best to take them to see a doctor.
The prevention of sticky eyes is not always possible. A person should follow good hygiene routines when it comes to their eyes to avoid potential infections, such as pinkeye or blepharitis.
People who wear contacts should follow safety routines when handling their eyes and contacts. The CDC recommends that people protect their eye health by:
rubbing and rinsing contacts in a clean solution after each use
using only contact solution to clean the case or contacts
disposing of excess solution and drying the case with a clean paper towel
washing the hands thoroughly every time before handling the contacts or eyes
A person should contact a doctor if they have persistent symptoms of eye or eyelid irritation, such as discoloration or swelling that does not go away.
It is possible that home treatments, such as warm or cold compresses, may work to help treat any underlying condition without the need for additional treatment.
A person should let a doctor know if their eye condition is getting worse even after treatment. A doctor will likely want to examine the eye and determine the cause of the continued irritation.
Sticky eyes occur when too much mucus or discharge from the eyes builds up on the eyelid and lashes, causing a crusty or sticky feeling.
The condition itself is easy to treat with a clean washcloth, but it is likely the result of an underlying condition that may need additional treatment.
In cases of infection, a person may need antibiotics or additional medications to help while the infection clears. When in doubt, a person should speak with a doctor about their symptoms to determine whether further treatment is necessary.