What Is Fishing Eye Syndrome?

Fishing eye syndrome, also called mucus eye syndrome, is a rare disorder that typically affects one eye. It is characterized by excessive mucus production in your eye after a mechanical trauma.

Typically, the mechanical trauma is removal of the mucus secretions, which causes damage to the eye’s cornea, the clear dome of tissue at the front of your eye. This in turn leads to increased production of mucus.

Thus begins a cycle of mechanical ocular trauma where removing the mucus threads causes the body to respond by producing more mucus threads.

Red, irritated eye
Jonathan Knowles / Getty Images 

Fishing Eye Syndrome Symptoms

People with fishing eye syndrome can pull strings of mucus from their affected eye.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Redness in or around your affected eye
  • Pain
  • Inflammation


Fishing eye syndrome is usually caused by another condition, such as:

  • Allergic conjunctivitis: Allergens activate different cells within the conjunctiva, the clear tissue that covers the white part of your eye, producing an inflammatory response. This causes the eyes to itch and swell, and increases mucus production. People affected by allergic conjunctivitis are prone to repeatedly scratching their eyes, creating the mechanical trauma that can trigger fishing eye syndrome.
  • Blepharitis: Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids. Eyelids appear red and swollen, and they may feel sore or burning. Overproduction of bacteria at the base of the eyelashes, or problems with the oil glands in the eyelids, can cause flakes to form. Blepharitis is more common in people with oily skin, dandruff, or rosacea.
  • Dry eye syndrome: The eye needs moisture to stay healthy. Lack of tear production by the eye is what causes dry eye. Each tear has three layers to facilitate healthy eyes: the oil, water, and mucus layers. Without adequate tear production, eyes can feel stinging or burning, possibly even scratchy. The conjunctiva continues to produce mucus, but without the watery and oily layers produced by the eye, people affected by dry eye will have strings of mucus in or around their eyes. This can lead to fishing eye syndrome since people are prone to removing the mucus threads, which in turn stimulates the conjunctiva to produce more mucus.


If you are removing ocular mucus threads on a regular basis, you should schedule an appointment with an eye specialist, such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist. They can diagnose fishing eye syndrome.

The diagnosis is made by taking a thorough history and using a specific stain—the rose bengal dye—on the eye to identify indicators of underlying conditions that cause fishing eye syndrome.


To treat fishing eye syndrome, you’ll first have to treat the underlying condition that’s causing it.

Body-focused repetitive behaviors are defined as repetitive, ritualized behaviors that are focused on the body and involve compulsively damaging one’s physical appearance or causing physical injury. Fishing eye syndrome can lead to body-focused repetitive behavior.

There is a weak relationship between body-focused repetitive behaviors and mental health disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder. If treatment of the underlying ocular disorder of fishing eye syndrome does not alleviate or eliminate the body-focused repetitive disorder, seeking consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist can be helpful in treating the body-focused repetitive disorder.


Fishing eye syndrome is characterized by excessive mucus production and usually occurs after mechanical trauma to your eye. Some conditions can lead to fishing eye syndrome, such as allergic conjunctivitis, blepharitis, and dry eye syndrome. Fishing eye syndrome usually gets better as you treat the underlying condition that’s causing it.

A Word From Verywell

When you are constantly removing mucus threads from your eye, you may have fishing eye syndrome and you should seek expert consultation from an eye specialist. Understanding which underlying condition is causing your symptoms can not only improve your eye health, but can also reduce the likelihood of dealing with the associated mental anxiety and stress.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is fishing eye syndrome?

Fishing eye syndrome is a condition where an underlying ocular condition, such as allergic conjunctivitis or blepharitis or dry eye syndrome, causes the eye to produce mucus threads. These threads are repeatedly removed by the person affected with the underlying ocular condition. By removing the mucus threads but not treating the underlying ocular condition, the conjunctiva continues to produce mucus threads which the affected individual continues to remove. Thus the cycle continues, leading to a diagnosis of fishing eye syndrome.

How long does fishing eye syndrome last?

Fishing eye syndrome lasts until the underlying condition is treated. Often people affected by repeat mucus thread production delay will see an eye specialist, like an optometrist or ophthalmologist, for months or years.

How do you stop fishing eye syndrome?

Fishing eye syndrome is stopped when the underlying ocular condition is treated. Depending on the severity of the underlying condition, it may take months to find the best treatment option to alleviate the underlying eye disorder.

How common is fishing eye syndrome?

Fishing eye syndrome is generally rare. However, the underlying ocular conditions that lead to fishing eye syndrome (e.g., allergic conjunctivitis, blepharitis, dry eye syndrome) are common. Seeking out an eye specialist to diagnose and treat underlying eye conditions early can prevent fishing eye syndrome from developing.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Guvenc-Ibas U, Sanli A, Yalniz-Akkaya Z, Uzman S, Singar E. Mucus fishing syndrome: a case with sterile corneal ulcer. Clin Exp Ocul Trauma Infect. 2019 Aug 30:109–111.

  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Allergic conjunctivitis.

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is blepharitis?

  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is dry eye?

  5. Solley K, Turner C. Prevalence and correlates of clinically significant body-focused repetitive behaviors in a non-clinical sampleCompr Psychiatry. 2018;86:9–18. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2018.06.014

  6. Ajamian P. Gone fishing’. Review of Optometry.

By Pamela Assid, DNP, RN
Pamela Assid, DNP, RN, is a board-certified nursing specialist with over 25 years of expertise in emergency, pediatric, and leadership roles.