So THIS is why we get eye boogers

Story of all our lives: Alarm goes off, snooze, alarm, eventually leading to inspection of face and removal of the inevitable eye booger/boogers. You know, the stuff that collects in your eyes when you sleep. Turns out, they don’t even have a cool, scientific name. Instead, some refer to them as “gound” or “rheum.”


SciShow reports that rheum is a form of thin discharge that’s released from mucus-related parts of your body. Perfect example: the eyes. The rheum that comes from our eyes actually contains several different components: mucus, dust, oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. (Kinda gross, but super informative!)

Though we typically see rheum after waking up from a nice, long nap, that isn’t the only time it’s there. This discharge is always on/around our eyes – we just don’t realize it. Here’s something else that’s secretly chilling out on our eyes: a tear film.


Our tear film is made up of an inner layer and an outer layer. The former is watery mucus that coats our cornea, making sure it stays nice and lubricated. As for the outer layer, it is thin, oily, and makes sure that all the moisture stays within the inner layer.

When debris gets in our eye, it gets wiped away by the tear film when we blink. (This means that our eyelids are essentially like windshield wipers!) However, when we are asleep and don’t blink, the gunk builds up and rests in our eye corners.


You may notice that the texture of rheum varies. For instance, people with allergies often have rheum that’s a bit wet because they tend to rub their eyes and produce more eye mucus.

For the most part, eye boogers are completely harmless, but they can occasionally indicate that something is wrong. Eye discharge can increase when we have blocked tear ducts. There are also infections like pinkeye, which can cause our eye gunk to build up to the point where we can’t open our eyes in the morning. (Eek!)

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