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People have various names for that gunk that you find on the inner corners of your eyes when you wake up in the morning. Sleep crust, eye gunk, sand, and sleep in your eyes are just a few. Though rarely used, the medical term for this matter is ‘rheum’.

But why do we get it and how can we manage it?


Everyone gets rheum. The eyes naturally produce mucus, salts, and oils. These are the culprits that cause rheum to form. Rheum will appear in varying degrees for each person. Some will have a lot and some might have so little that they hardly notice it. There is usually a slight increase in the volume of rheum discharged by a person during the sensitive allergy season or when one’s eyes are dry.

Rheum should also be white or light cream.

Uses of Rheum

Rheum has the important task of keeping the eyes moist between blinks and getting rid of waste products and debris from the tear film and the front surface of the eyes. The mucus has to be flushed out before it turns hard in the eyes.

Sign of infection

Regular eye discharge is not bad, but when the rheum is far more than usual, or when it is yellow or green, it could be a sign of infection. Sometimes an infection can cause the discharge to become so thick that it can make the eyelids stick together. In the event of the occurrences mentioned above, see your eye care professional and schedule an eye examination. The eye infection could be bacterial or an allergic reaction.


Do not rub your eyes when you wake up, this could get your eyes infected. Wash your hands and then splash your face with clean water, or dip a washcloth in warm water and gently clean your eyelids. If it feels extra sticky, leave the warm washcloth on the eyelids for a few minutes before wiping. This is especially helpful when the eyelids get stuck together.

Simple eye care practices go a long way. Contact us for more eye care information.