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What Is Eye Gunk And Why Do We Get It?

03/18/2016 03:21 EDT | Updated 03/21/2016 01:59 EDT

If you rub your eyes when you wake up only to find crusty gunk, you certainly aren't alone.

While you sleep, oil, mucus, skin cells and other debris build up in the corners of your eyes, creating a thick and crusty discharge. This is commonly referred to as "sleep" or "gunk" or sometimes, eye boogers.

This gunk is completely normal and even develops during the day.

"Every time we blink, we wipe away the tears on our eyes and replace them with a new layer. But while we're sleeping, the moisture on our eyes does not get replaced and it builds up on the surface," Dr. Harbir Sian of Highstreet Eyecare Center in Abbotsford, B.C. tells The Huffington Post Canada.

eye crust


Since the fluid in our eyes contain different levels of debris and bacteria, not all eye gunk is made the same, which is it can vary from thick to sticky to virtually non-existent.

Regardless of whether or not you notice sleep in your eyes when you wake up, Sian recommends cleaning your eyelids to prevent infections, inflammation and styes.

When cleaning your eyes and eyelids, use a towel or cloth with hot water and a mild soap like baby shampoo. Start by gently scrubbing the base of both your top and bottom lashes, working your way around the eyes.

While every day eye gunk is nothing to be bothered by, the colour of the discharge is worth paying attention to.

"If it appears to be more yellow or green in appearance, it may be due to bacterial build up on the surface of the eyes or even an active bacterial infection," Sian says. Signs of bacteria can also include stickiness.

Sometimes, eye infections can be so severe that discharge builds up on the lashes. If this is the case, visit your doctor for a medicated eye solution.

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