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Crusty eyes occur when discharge from the eye dries on the lids, lashes, or corners of the eye, creating a crusty effect. When the discharge is still wet, it may make the eyes sticky.

A small amount of discharge in the corners of the eyes is normal. However, sometimes eye discharge is a symptom of an eye infection or health condition.

When do you ask for help for crusty eyes?

A person should seek out medical attention if:

  • their eye produces a large amount of discharge
  • their eye makes green, yellow, or white discharge
  • it isn’t easy to open the eye
  • the eye is red, swollen, or painful
  • they are sensitive to light
  • they have blurry vision

In this blog, we will look at the causes for crusty eyes, treatments, home remedies and self-care, and how to prevent crusty eyes.

Causes of crusty eyes

Good eye hygiene may help prevent crusty and sticky eyes.


People often refer to the small amount of discharge the eyes produce during the night as “sleep” or “sleep eye.” This tiny pebble-like residue found in the eyes’ corners is not a cause for concern, as it is part of the eye’s protective barrier.

The eye produces a small amount of mucus and oils to stay moist. But during sleep, when a person is not blinking, the discharge can collect in the corners. The discharge can be crusty, sticky, thick, thin, white, transparent, or slightly yellow.

Typically, a person with a small amount of sleep in their eyes upon waking does not require medical treatment unless they have other symptoms.

Pink eye

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is another common cause of crusty eyes. Viral or bacterial infection can cause pink eye.

Viral pink eye usually gets better on its own in 1–2 weeks. However, the bacterial pink eye requires antibiotics.

Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are contagious, so a person with this condition should take care to wash their hands thoroughly and avoid touching their eyes. The symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • pink, red or puffy eyes
  • itchy or burning eyes
  • watery eyes
  • white, yellow, or green fluid discharge
  • crust along the eyelids or eyelashes

Eye infections in babies can be severe. A parent or caretaker who notices these symptoms in a newborn should call a doctor immediately.

Allergic conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis has similar symptoms to viral or bacterial eye infections, but it is caused by an allergic reaction instead. Common allergens that cause eye symptoms include pollen, pet dander, and dust mites.

The symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include:

  • itchy eyes
  • watery eyes
  • eye discharge
  • swelling
  • symptoms in both eyes

A person with allergies may find that their eyes produce more discharge when their symptoms flare up. When that discharge dries, the eye area may become crusty or sticky.

If a person suspects that they have an allergy, they should speak to a doctor to determine what kind of allergies they have. Over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tears and allergy medications can ease itching and eye dryness.

Dry eye

If a person’s eyes do not produce enough tears, this may also cause crusty eyes. Here are some of the dry eye causes:

  • stinging or burning
  • blurred vision
  • a scratchy or gritty feeling in the eye
  • strings of mucus in or around the eyes
  • red or irritated eyes
  • pain while wearing contact lenses
  • more tears

It may seem counterintuitive that dry eye would cause more tears. However, this results from the eye overcompensating for the dryness by producing more moisture than usual. Learn more about watery, dry eyes.

People with a dry eye see an opthalmologist for an eye exam. They may recommend using hydrating eye drops or a humidifier in the home and avoiding irritants, including environmental triggers like cigarette smoke.

Learn more about dry eye here.


A stye is an inflamed oil gland on the rim of the eyelid that can cause crusty eyes. Often the formation of a stye is related to dry eyes, which causes inflammation to cause clogging of the meibomian oil glands. To learn more, click here

A stye looks similar to a pimple and produces:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • discharge

To treat a stye, a person should apply a warm compress to the area several times a day. The warm compress will help drain the blocked pore. A doctor might prescribe an antibiotic ointment, drops, or a topical steroid to accelerate healing in some cases.

If a stye does not respond to these treatments, a doctor may surgically drain the stye. In rare cases, an untreated stye leads to infection in other parts of the eye.

Find out more about styes.

Blocked tear duct

blocked tear duct occurs when something obstructs the eye’s drainage system. This means tears cannot drain from the eye. This causes watery, irritated eyes and sometimes leads to an eye infection.

The following symptoms for an eye infection:

  • eye mucus discharge
  • crusty eyelashes and eyelids
  • swelling, tenderness, and redness
  • blurred vision
  • blood-tinged tears
  • fever

An eye doctor should check for a blockage in someone with symptoms of a blocked tear duct and flush the eye out with fluid.

If the ophthalmologist suspects the blockage is due to an infection, they may prescribe antibiotics. If the blockage keeps coming back, a person may need surgery to widen the tear ducts.

Blocked tear ducts in babies

Babies often have blocked tear ducts during the first few years. Newborns, in particular, are prone to this condition because their tear ducts are less developed.

The blocked duct usually produces a sticky yellow or white substance along with the eye, sometimes making it difficult for a baby to open its eyes.

Sometimes, the baby’s eye will become infected or irritated by the blocked tear duct and need treatment from a doctor.

A person should use a damp, clean cotton ball to clean each eye. This will prevent spreading an infection from one eye to the other.

For most newborns, the ducts will open on their own within a few months. A doctor can irrigate the duct during this time to help with symptoms if necessary. They can also show new parents a facial massage technique that can encourage the ducts to open and allow the tears to drain away.

Find out more about blocked tear ducts in babies.


Blepharitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids. Other symptoms include:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • burning or soreness
  • oily particles or crust along the eyelids and lashes

All people have bacteria and other microorganisms on their skin. People with blepharitis may have more bacteria near the lash line than others or have an inflammatory reaction to them where others do not.

This condition is caused by invisible mites called Demodex folliculorum or flaky skin conditions, such as dandruff.

A person with blepharitis can manage the symptoms through good eye hygiene and, if appropriate, by treating the underlying cause. For example, if dandruff is causing blepharitis, treating dandruff will improve symptoms.

Other infections

Fungal keratitis and herpes keratitis can also cause the eye to produce a crusty discharge. Numerous infections of the eye have similar symptoms, such as:

  • eye pain
  • redness
  • blurred vision
  • swelling
  • sensitivity to light
  • eye discharge

Treatment for crusty eyes

The treatment for crusty eyes will depend on the underlying cause. A person will need to see a doctor for the exact diagnosis and correct treatment.

Most doctors will treat crusty eyes with medication that fits the condition, such as:

  • oral or topical antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • antifungal medicines for fungal infections
  • antiviral drugs for viral infections
  • antihistamines for allergic reactions

If medication does not work for someone who has a stye or a blocked tear duct, a doctor may recommend surgery.

How TheraLife can help:

TheraLife addresses several aspects of crusty eyes, including dry eyes, styes, blepharitis.

TheraLife is an all-natural, patented oral formula designed to restore and revive tear functions from the inside out. TheraLife treats all three crusty eye conditions all at once. It is the only treatment you need. To learn more, click here

A person with symptoms of an eye condition must seek medical help to get the proper treatment- especially true for infants with eye symptoms.

However, while waiting for the condition to improve, there are a few ways to manage crusty or sticky eyes at home.

Good eye hygiene may help improve crusty eyes. We highly recommend Avenova eyelid to stop bacterial infections of your eyelids (blepharitis)

Suppose a person is unsure what type of eye condition they have or have an infection that could be contagious. In that case, they should wash their hands for 20 seconds after touching the eye area. They also should not share or re-use washcloths, towels, or cotton wool that has touched the spot.

To relieve symptoms of pink eye, dry eye, or styes, a person should use warm compresses and OTC eye drops for hydration. Pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen, will reduce pain or swelling. Still, they will not treat an active infection.

A person with an eye infection should avoid using contact lenses and only use a fresh pair once the infection has cleared. A person should also avoid using eye makeup and false eyelashes while they have an eye condition.


Get your best natural alternatives for the treatment of crusty eyes from TheraLife. Call us toll-free 1-877-917-1989 US/Canada. International 650-949-6080. Email:

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