Eye boogers…everyone gets ‘em, but does anyone actually know anything about them? We mean, besides the fact that they’re a dead give-away that you’ve just woken up. In this piece, we’re going to explore all the nitty-gritty, lesser known facts of the mysterious eye booger, including what they are, why we get them, and if they’re a sign of eye trouble.
Eye Boogers and Their Many Names
The scientific term for what we casually refer to as eye boogers is actually rheum, which refers to any watery discharge from either the eye, nose or mouth while sleeping. To get even more technical, when rheum discharges specifically from the eye, it’s called gound. We’ve never heard anyone actually refer to them as such, and we’re guessing you haven’t either. That said, they do have a lot of other names, like eye gunk, sleepies, sleep dust and crusties — all equal lovely, no?
What Causes Them?
Eye boogers are made up from a handful of different things, namely skin cells, oils, mucus, and dust. Now, these perfectly natural bits don’t accumulate as eye boogers while you’re awake thanks to the simple magic of blinking. Each time you blink, your eye is refreshed with tears, which carry off the microscopic particles. But when you sleep—and the blinking goes on hiatus, there’s nothing to carry them off. Instead, they form together into goopy bits and get pushed into the corners or lash lines of the eye—and then you wash or pick them out come morning.
What Purpose do they Serve?
Once you understand what sleepies are made of, it’s pretty easy to see their purpose. Think of them like a cleaning device, transforming all the unneeded gunk in your eyeball into convenient little crusties that can be swept out come morning with a little splash of water on the face. They’re certainly not glamourous — but at least they’re making their way out of the eyeball, allowing it to remain clean and healthy.
Are They a Sign of Eye Troubles?
As you probably suspect, eye boogers aren’t harmful. They’re super common and again, really a natural cleansing tool of the body. That said, excessive eye boogers can be a sign of a larger issue at work in the eyeball. In many cases, they can be a sign of infection, such as pink eye. Such infections also tend to cause eye boogers to be more yellow or green in color. For anyone who’s ever suffered from pink eye, they’re likely to recall waking up with an eyeball that is nearly sealed from the amount of crusties covering it. Eye infections may also have accompanying tenderness, pain, or vision changes/difficulty.
An overabundance of eye boogers doesn’t necessarily point to an infection though — it might just be a symptom of allergies. As anyone who has them knows, allergies can wreak havoc on the eyes. Common symptoms include itchy, red and dry eyes, and loads of eye boogers upon waking.
What to Do if You Have Too Many Sleepies
If you find yourself waking up with a more than usual amount of crusties, it’s a good idea to give your eye doc a ring. On the chances that you do have an underlying infection, you’ll want to start treatment for it right away before it can cause any further damage to your eyes, or even your eyesight.
While pink eye is a fairly common and treatable infection, there are loads more that need to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. Of course, you’ll want to get rid of the eye boogers before leaving the house. For this, the best thing to do is use a wet, warm compress to gently soften the eye debris. Then, you can carefully wipe them away with the damp cloth.
And just like that, the great mystery of eye boogers is revealed at last. Don’t you feel smarter already?