Why Are My Eyes Goopy?

Common Causes of Eye Discharge

Eye mucus is normal and essential to good eye health. It's produced in the eye conjunctiva, a clear tissue that protects the eyeball and eyelids, along with oil from the meibomian glands along the eyelash edge.

There are several reasons why you may have goopy eyes. While it is normal to have a little "gunk" or eye discharge in the morning, some causes of eye discharge are more serious and may require medical attention.

This article covers some of the most common causes of eye discharge and what they look like. It also discusses other related symptoms, as well as the common ways to treat these conditions.

Executive rubbing eyes, close-up
Charles Thatcher / Getty Images


Conjunctivitis (also called pink eye) results in goopy eyes that are also often very red or bloodshot. Pink eye can also cause the eyes to burn or feel itchy.

Infection can be caused by bacterial or viral agents. 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, or may be related to herpes simplex infections.

While many cases of pink eye are mild and go away on their own, some require the intervention of a healthcare professional.

At home, treatment for pink eye may include a warm compress to reduce redness and swelling. 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.

Antibiotic eyedrops may be an option if your symptoms don't clear up in a few days. Your healthcare provider also may need to treat an underlying cause of conjunctivitis.


Eye allergies can also be called allergic conjunctivitis and cause a clear or white eye discharge. Additional symptoms include:

  • Eye redness
  • Itchy eyes
  • Burning eyes
  • Other symptoms consistent with hay fever or pollen allergies

In many cases, treatment with over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines, nasal sprays, eye drops, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) will clear up symptoms. In some cases, prescription eyedrops and a corticosteroid may also be used.

Blocked Tear Ducts

Goopy eyes can also be the result of blocked tear ducts. Blocked tear ducts can happen to anyone at any age, though they are most common among infants. Their tear ducts are small and are, therefore, more prone to blockage. 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 that prevent tears from draining into the nasolacrimal ducts properly. This typically resolves as they grow and the ducts open up more.

Blocked tear ducts can occur in older children and adults when damaged from a facial injury or blocked by infectious debris.

A condition called dacryocystitis 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. Sometimes, a dacryocystorhinostomy is needed to unblock the tear duct drainage system.

Generally, treatment will depend on the cause. Antibiotics may be used when the cause is an infection, or a dilation procedure may be performed to open up a blocked tear duct.

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. This fairly common condition usually causes a bump on the edge of your eyelid, which may become tender and sore.

Styes are caused by bacterial infections that lead to excessive tear production. Some underlying health conditions, including diabetes, may make their development more common.

Most styes can be treated at home by keeping the affected area clean and makeup-free. Warm compresses and light massage can help to relieve symptoms. If necessary, both OTC and prescription medications are available to treat a more stubborn stye.

Eye Cellulitis

Eye cellulitis, also called orbital cellulitis, is a more severe infection of the tissues surrounding the eye.

In some cases, a stye may progress to cellulitis, but they also may be related to bacterial infections, including Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae. This is a more serious cause of eye discharge that can lead to permanent eye damage.

Treatment will depend on the cause, including cases where trauma to the eye leads to cellulitis and its symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Pain, swelling, and red-purple color around the eye, brow, and cheek
  • Bulging of the eye
  • Blurry vision, and other changes, including blindness
  • Fever

Many people with orbital cellulitis are treated in the hospital, with intravenous (IV) antibiotics and surgery. Nasal congestion, often associated with orbital cellulitis, also may be treated.

Cellulitis and Eye Cancer

Cancers of the eye, in some cases, may be associated with or mistaken for orbital cellulitis. One review found nearly half of people with necrotic uveal melanoma also had cellulitis along with pain, vision loss, and other symptoms. Sebaceous cell carcinoma, which arises from meibomian glands, also may present as cellulitis.

Foreign Objects

It's common for small foreign objects, such as dust or sand, to affect the eye. Typically, these objects can be removed fairly easily by blinking or carefully flushing out the eye.

When a goopy discharge is one of the symptoms, it's important to see a healthcare provider. This may mean that the object is still trapped and needs to be removed with a medical procedure, or it may indicate an infection that requires treatment.

Dry Eye Disease

Dry eye disease (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) occurs when the body doesn't produce enough tears. Reasons for the condition include normal aging, exposure to sun and wind, and some medications and underlying conditions, like lupus.

Apart from dry eyes, symptoms include:

  • Sense of something stuck in the eye
  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Notably bloodshot eyes

Artificial tears and prescription medications may be used to treat dry eye disease. Lifestyle changes are important, including drinking enough water, wearing sunglasses outdoors, and avoiding smoke and other environmental irritants.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Many causes of goopy eye discharge can be treated at home and resolved in a few days. However, see a healthcare provider immediately if you have severe eye pain or redness, vision changes or blindness, a traumatic injury to the eye that causes symptoms, or symptoms that don't change or keep getting worse.


Small amounts of eye discharge are normal, and most people have clear, white, or yellowish mucus that appears in the corner of their eyes when they wake up. This mucus is a sign of a healthy eye.

But when the mucus changes color or texture or becomes an excessive discharge, it may be a sign of a serious infection or eye condition. While home remedies help clear up goopy eye symptoms in just a few days, these situations require a healthcare provider's assessment.

Fortunately, many of these eye conditions are easily treated in children and adults. In rare cases, such as eye cellulitis, cancer, or even a blocked tear duct, more intervention will be needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is having eye discharge every day normal?

    Yes, as long as the gunk is clear or light yellow (even if it's crusty). Contact a healthcare provider if the eye discharge is green or dark yellow, is especially thick, or is accompanied by pain or redness—all signs of infection.

  • What do I do if my infant has goopy eyes?

    A small amount of discharge in the corner of your infant's eyes is normal. It may be wet or crusty, clear or slightly yellow. You can simply wipe it away. However, if there is yellow or green discharge in the eye, dried pus on the eyelids or eyelashes, or if the eyelids are puffy, red, or swollen, see a healthcare provider.

  • Does entropion cause goopy eye symptoms?

    Entropion, which causes your lower eyelid to turn in, is associated more with excessive tear production, redness, and irritation from the lid rubbing on the eye. It's typically age-related. Surgery is performed to correct the eyelid and improve symptoms.

13 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.
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Additional Reading

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.