Waking up with crusty eyes? Here’s what your body is trying to tell you
Red eyes in the morning can be normal. But if the trash seems to be out of control, there’s probably a reason for that.
Scabs around the eyes form during sleep because we don’t blink, he explains Nathan Langemo, OD, an optometrist at Hopkins Eye Clinic in Hopkins, Minnesota. When your eyes remain closed for long periods of time, a normal discharge consisting of water, oil, and mucus can build up around the corners of your eyes and lash lines. As a result, your eyes may feel a little crusty, sticky, or watery when you first open them.
Certain conditions may cause your eyes to produce more discharge than normal, however, which can translate into more spots or blotches in your eyes when you wake up. Here’s a look at what might be bothering your peers and what to do about it.
Dry eye occurs when your eyes do not produce enough water and oil to keep your eyes well lubricated. A lack of moisture can cause eye irritation, which can lead to problems such as sensitivity, burning, redness, and wrinkled mucus or discharge. Overnight, that discharge can dry up and form crusts around the eyes.
“It’s one of the most common causes of excessive scabbing after waking up,” says Dr. Let’s go.
Fix: Artificial tears and a few lifestyle adjustments (like taking a break from screens) could be enough to get rid of dry eye, according to Mayo Clinic. If your doctor determines that your dry eye is caused by an underlying condition, he may recommend prescription medications to reduce eye inflammation or increase tear production in your eyes.
2. You have seasonal allergies
Irritants like pollen, dust, or mold can make your eyes red, itchy, watery, or watery during the day. And when the discharge builds up overnight, it can make your eyes extra scaly or sticky in the morning, he says Barrett Eubanks, MDan ophthalmologist in Murrieta, California.
Fix: Applying a warm, clean washcloth to your eyes for a minute or two can help loosen the oil and soothe irritation. But you’ll have to stick with the good one habits in the fight against allergies so that the crusts do not return. This includes avoiding exposure to your allergen as much as possible and talking to your doctor about it anti-allergy medicines or antiallergic eye drops, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
This common eye infection can cause your eyes to produce a lot of mucus and pus (not to mention cause rednesspain, itching, sensitivity to light and feeling like something is stuck in your eye). “This extra discharge is too much for normal drainage from the eyes. It builds up on the eyelashes and in the corners of the eyes as extra crusts for the eyes,” says Dr. Eubanks.
Fix: Most cases of pink eye are viral and will clear up on their own within a week or two. If your pink eye is bacterial, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops to fight the infection. (Bacterial pink eye usually causes more pus than viral pink eye, but it’s a good idea to get your eyes checked so your doctor can determine what you’re dealing with.)
In either case, putting a cool, moist compress on your eyes can break up the extra crusts and make your eyes feel a little more comfortable, according to American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). (Here are more home remedies for pink eye.)
Not everyone is familiar with blepharitis, a buildup of bacteria on the eyelids that causes dandruff-like scales to form on the eyelids. But it’s another common reason for waking up with flaky eyes, says Dr. Let’s go. The problem can also cause burning or stinging eyes, sensitivity to light, or tears that are foamy or frothy. It often occurs with problems such as rosacea or dandruff.
Fix: Blepharitis is a chronic condition, but you can control it by keeping your eyelids clean and crust-free. The best way to do this is to clean your eyelids and eyelashes regularly with a soft cloth, warm water and a mild baby shampoo, according to National Eye Institute. Your doctor may also recommend eye drops to relieve redness or discomfort, as well as antibiotics.
Corns are red, pimple-like bumps that occur when the oil gland around the eyelid becomes clogged and infected. Your eye produces more tears, mucus and oil to fight infection, which can build up around the eye and cause crusting, explains Dr. Let’s go.
Fix: The calluses usually heal on their own within a few weeks. But you can speed up the process.
First, apply a warm, damp washcloth to your eyelids to remove any surface crust. Then apply a warm eye gel pack to the affected area for five minutes. (Try Up & Up Hot + Cold Gel Eye Mask, $8.79 each Target.) “A warm compress consisting of a wet cloth is not enough because it does not allow five minutes of sustained heat [the way gel packs can]”, says dr. Let’s go.
Here’s more home remedies for burdockand a word of caution: Don’t try to pierce the eye as this can spread the infection to the other eye.
6. You have a blocked tear duct
Clogged tear ducts, which happen when your eyes can’t drain normally, can make your eye excessively watery and inflamed, which can lead to mucus or crusting. The problem most often affects newborns, but it can also occur due to age-related eye changes, infections, eye trauma or as a side effect of chemotherapy. Mayo Clinic.
Fix: Blocked tear ducts may require surgery to fix, so see your doctor to discuss your options. In the meantime, take steps to manage the crusts. “It is best to use a clean, wet washcloth and gently dab the excess crust on the eyes and eyelids,” says Dr. Eubanks.
7. You have another eye infection
Pink eye and eggs aren’t the only infections that can affect your eyes. There are a number of bugs that can make your eyes uncomfortable, watery and mucousy or scaly – and some can be serious.
Fix: See your eye doctor if you suspect you have an eye infection. They can examine your eyes to determine what is causing the infection and the best way to treat it.
A little crust around the eyes when you wake up is no big deal.
“However, if the scales coat the eyelashes and make it difficult to open the eyes, this could be a problem. Discharge during the day and crusting at night can also indicate a problem,” says Dr. Eubanks. In either case, it’s a good idea to get your eyes checked so you can figure out what’s going on and decide on the best solution.
You should also see an eye doctor if you have green or yellow eye discharge, eye pain, swelling, sensitivity to light, or new or unusual blurred vision, according to Cleveland Clinic. These may be signs of an eye infection or other problem that may require treatment.
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