Why Do We Get Eye Boogers
When you wake up at night from sleeping with your head propped against something that is cold or wet, you may find yourself rubbing your eyes and saying “Ow.” This occurs because the moisture level inside the eye has dropped suddenly, causing irritation. When dry air invades the eyes while you sleep, the tear ducts are unable to move enough fluid out of the eyes to keep them moist. If you don’t use any eye drops during the night, then the tears will evaporate before they reach the surface of the eyes. As a result, the uppermost layer of the eye becomes dry, which irritates the tissues that line the inner side of the eyelid. The cause for irritation is usually due to the evaporation of moisture through excessive exposure to dry air.
The outer layer of the conjunctiva (the white part of the eye) contains goblet-shaped cells called mucus glands. These secrete mucus into the space between the lining of the eyeball and the inner membrane of the eyelids. Mucus helps protect the eye by coating its surface and providing lubrication. It also keeps harmful microorganisms from entering the eye. In addition to serving these functions, the mucus on the inner surface of the eyes acts as an antibacterial barrier, preventing bacteria and viruses from coming into contact with the cornea.
Although we often think about our eyes producing tears only when we cry, they actually do so much more frequently than that. Tears help remove foreign bodies from the eye, including dust particles, smoke, pollen grains and tiny insects. They also serve other protective purposes such as removing debris from around the lens, protecting it from damage caused by ultraviolet light, and keeping the eye muscles relaxed. Tears contain proteins that protect the eye from infection.
In order to maintain healthy eyes, the body needs to replace old tears regularly. Normally, the lower layers of the eye’s tear film break down first, allowing new ones to form higher up. However, if the tear film breaks down too quickly, the amount of fluid being removed from the eye is reduced. Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which the natural process of breaking down the lower layers of the tear film is interfered with, leading to inflammation and pain. Symptoms include burning, itching, redness and sensitivity to bright lights. The main causes of dry eye syndrome are poor blinking habits, aging, allergies, vitamin deficiencies, smoking, autoimmune diseases, radiation therapy, medications, overuse of computer screens and environmental pollution.
Because the eyes naturally create their own moisture, there should be no need to apply artificial moisturizers. However, some people get tired of having to clean off dried mucus after waking up in the morning. Others develop allergic reactions to certain substances found in commercially available lotions. Therefore, applying a commercial ointment directly onto the eye can provide relief. Artificial tears come in many different forms, but they are generally applied once per day. Some products are designed to be used several times per day, since the amount of liquid lost through the normal tearing action is greater than the amount added back in. Other types of artificial tears are designed to stop the production of tears altogether.
There are two kinds of artificial tears — those that act as solubilizers, increasing the water content of the tears, and those that prevent the formation of tears. Solubilizer solutions work best immediately after crying. Tears containing sodium hyaluronate are effective solubilizers. Tears containing benzalkonium chloride are preservatives that inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus.
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