Causes of Goopy Eye Discharge

Executive rubbing eyes, close-up

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Occasionally waking up with "goopy eyes" might be normal for some of us, especially small children. We all produce a certain amount of something called rheum, a liquid made up of mucus, oil, skin cells and other debris which accumulates in the corners of our eyes while we sleep. However, eyes that water excessively, or have an unusual discharge can be caused by several conditions. Here are some of the most common.


Conjunctivitis is also called pink eye and like its name denotes, goopy eyes are also often very red or bloodshot. Pink eye can also cause the eyes to burn or feel itchy. Depending on the germ that has caused this infection, eye discharge may be white, yellow or even green in coloration.

Conjunctivitis can occur in both children and adults. Viral conjunctivitis is often accompanied by common cold symptoms. While many cases of pink eye are mild and go away on their own some require the intervention of a healthcare professional. Even if symptoms are mild, pink eye can be very contagious. Avoid touching your eyes and practice frequent hand washing to avoid spreading the infection to others.

See a doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • excessive pain or redness in the eyes
  • impaired vision
  • symptoms that fail to improve or get worse
  • bacterial pink eye that does not respond to antibiotic drops after 24 hours
  • if you have an impaired immune system


Eye allergies can also be called allergic conjunctivitis and can cause a clear watery or whitish colored discharge. Additional symptoms include:

  • eye redness
  • itchy eyes
  • burning eyes
  • other symptoms consistent with hay fever or pollen allergies

Blocked Tear Ducts

Blocked tear ducts are most common in babies or small children. This can occur because the duct is blocked by a thin piece of tissue. Infants may also have closed or undeveloped corners of the eyes which prevent tears from draining into the nasolacrimal ducts properly.

Blocked tear ducts can occur in adults and in older children when they become blocked by infectious debris or when they are damaged from a facial injury or trauma. A condition called dacrocystitis is an infection of the eye drainage system which can be accompanied by redness and swelling around the eyes or nose. In extreme cases, fever and pain may also occur.

A blocked tear duct may cause drainage in only one eye or both eyes. A tear duct may also be fully or only partially blocked. Drainage may get worse if you also have a sinus infection or are congested.


A stye is an inflamed gland on the edge of your eyelid which arises from an infected eyelash follicle. It usually causes a bump on the edge of your eyelid, the bump may be very tender and sore. It can cause excessive tearing of the eye.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Contrary to the name, dry eye syndrome can sometimes cause the eyes to become excessively watery. Other symptoms include feeling like there is something stuck in your eye, burning eyes, or very bloodshot eyes.

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