Everyone finds “sleep” in their eyes upon waking — a gunky, goopy material that forms in the inner corner of our eyes while we’re asleep. What is this stuff? How does it form? And is it harmful?
What Is This Stuff?
Eye doctors refer to sleep as “rheum,” or eye discharge. Rheum is one of the ways in which your eyes keep themselves clean, discharging waste products and any potentially harmful particles that get trapped between the tear film of your eye and the inner eyelid.
Your eyes are continuously producing rheum, even while you’re awake. You don’t notice it because your eyes are also producing a continuous thin-film of tears that bathe your eyes when you blink, removing the rheum before it has a chance to pool and harden.
How Does “Sleep” in Your Eye Form?
When you sleep, you don’t blink, so the rheum doesn’t get washed away like it does when you’re awake. It collects in the corners of your eyes, or along your eyelashes where it begins to harden, forming that ugly gunk you find in your eyes when you wake up.
Rheum consists of mucin, a thin, watery mucus produced by the conjunctiva, meibum, an oily substance that helps keep your eyes lubricated between blinks, and whatever debris the mixture has collected.
Is “Sleep” Harmful?
While rheum looks gross, it’s actually a sign that your eyes are healthy and functioning normally and is generally nothing to be concerned about.
However, changes in the color or consistency of the rheum may be indicative of eye disease or infection. Unusual sleep discharge is a symptom of eye conditions such as dry eyes, conjunctivitis (pink eye), blepharitis and styes. Allergies may also affect the production and composition of the rheum, as can contact lenses or eye injuries.
When To See A Houston Eye Doctor
If you’ve been experiencing changes in the rheum discharge in your eyes, it would be a good idea to have an eye doctor take a look, especially if you’re also experiencing symptoms such as red or inflamed eyes, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, or eye pain. Unusual eye sleep may indicate a serious eye infection or disease; treatment options are most effective the earlier the problem is diagnosed.
Berkeley Eye Center has been protecting the vision of Houstonians for over sixty years. If you’ve been noticing changes in your rheum or other vision problems, call us today to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with a Houston eye doctor. With locations all over Houston, as well as Katy, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, Huntsville, Clear Lake, Pearland, and Kingwood, there’s a Berkeley Eye Center near you.