Drainage From the Eyes

Small amounts of white or yellow drainage from the eye are common. Some drainage or crusting of the lids, especially in the morning, may be normal.

Clear or watery drainage from the eye is often due to allergies or a virus. The eyes may also be itchy and red and feel scratchy. Colds, flu, and viral pinkeye (conjunctivitis) also can cause watery eyes and a runny nose.

It is very common for pinkeye drainage to cause the eyelids to stick together during sleep. When the eyelids are stuck together, they may swell during the night. This matting of the eyelids occurs with almost every type of pinkeye. Once this matted drainage is cleaned away, the eyelid swelling usually goes away. The next night the matting and swelling may occur again. Sometimes you can't evaluate your symptoms until 1 to 2 hours after cleaning your eyes.

Creamy white or thick yellow drainage that causes the eyelids to be red, puffy, or stick together in the morning may mean a bacterial infection. If swelling and redness improve within 1 or 2 hours of opening your eyes and the drainage is clearing up gradually over a couple of days, the problem may be less serious. If there are no other symptoms, 3 or 4 days of home treatment may be all that is needed to clear up the symptoms.

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Last Revised October 30, 2013

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