When Is Eye Discharge Cause for Concern?

Eye Discharge

Eye discharge can be a sign of a range of conditions, from an uncomfortable allergic reaction to a painful infection. Learning the symptoms of both common and rare eye disorders and viruses can help you obtain the correct, effective treatment.

What Constitutes Abnormal Eye Discharge?

While any discharge may cause worry, not all cases are cause for concern. During sleep, eyes shed oil, mucus and skin cells which all combine and form either a gooey or crusty film on the edges of eyes come morning. Everyone produces a particular amount of this discharge every night. When excessive discharge is produced or it changes in color and texture, it could be a sign of infection.


One of the most common types of infections is conjunctivitis. Also called “pink eye,” this infection can be classified as viral, bacterial or allergic and causes inflammation which leads to itchiness and redness.

Viral conjunctivitis produces clear or yellowish discharge and is easily passed from one person to another. The bacterial version can be more dangerous to your vision and must be treated right away. The mucus produced is thicker and greenish and can cause the eye to close completely. Allergic conjunctivitis, which is not contagious, is easily diagnosed because watery discharge and inflammation appears in both eyes.


A stye usually originates from a blocked or infected gland in or near the eyelash follicles. The stye may look like a pimple and leak white or yellow pus. The eyelid and eye may become red and inflamed. Once the stye ruptures, all discharge should be cleaned with soap and water. The fluid may lead to another infection, so you must avoid touching and aggravating it.

Additional Conditions

Dry eye syndrome, a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough lubrication, can also be irritating and cause a clear discharge at the corners. Blepharitis, a chronic eyelid disorder, can involve excessive oil production which interferes with vision and eye health. Abnormal discharge has many other potential causes, but only a qualified eye care professional can offer a comprehensive, accurate diagnosis.

Treatment Options

For bacterial infections, antibacterial eyedrops and medications may be prescribed. Allergic conditions may require the use of anti-inflammatory eyedrops or general decongestant medication. Do not touch the infected area, and apply a warm, clean compress to the affected area to reduce swelling and itching. Stay alert to possible triggers, such as problematic contact lenses, makeup and ointments. Switching brands can occasionally reduce or eliminate symptoms.

Call the team at Salt Lake Eye Associates to schedule a professional consultation, including diagnosis and treatment of your current condition involving eye discharge.

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