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Causes of Eye White Discharge

by
author image Anthony E. Fox, O.D., M.S.
Dr. Fox completed his Bachelor of Biological Sciences at Ohio University in 2000, and earned both his Master of Science and Doctorate of Optometry at The Ohio State University in 2004. He actively participates as a clinical trials investigator and he has presented his individual research at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). He has been a consultant for organizations such as Adena Health System and Inventiv Health. Dr. Fox currently is in private practice as a primary care optometrist in central Ohio, although he spent three years practicing and traveling extensively throughout Alaska. Dr. Fox has been a freelance writer for over ten years, and his work has been published by several media outlets including eHow, LIVESTRONG.COM, and The Times Gazette. More information and publications can be viewed at www.foxfreelancewriting.com.
Causes of Eye White Discharge
Causes of Eye White Discharge Photo Credit eye image by Pali A from Fotolia.com

White discharge from the eye eye can be an indication of several underlying conditions. Eye irritation in general often causes excessive tearing, and likewise mild discharge can be a normal finding. If the discharge is excessive or presents with other symptoms such as blurred vision and eye pain, then an eye examination is recommended to prevent any permanent visual problems.

Eye Conditions Associated with White Discharge

White discharge from the eye can be a sign that an eye infection is present. The color of the discharge is one factor that can assist an eye doctor in determining what type of infection is taking place. Bacterial infections can present with a green, thick discharge, wheareas a white appearance may be more indicative of a viral infection. This is not a definite rule because there are numerous variations that exist between individuals and among the multitude of infectious processes. Ocular allergies are commonly associated with watery eyes and a stringy discharge that may be clear or white in color. The eye naturally waters excessively with trauma or irritation, and white discharge can be produced in response to this occurence.

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Diagnosis and Treatment

A thorough eye examination will determine the underlying cause of white discharge from the eye. If a foreign body is present in the eye then using an approved eye wash is the first step that should be taken. Materials that have become embedded in the ocular surface will obviously require removal from an eye specialist. Several factors can cause inflammation of the eye that leads to discharge. Preservative free lubricating eye drops may alleviate the symptoms, and anti inflammatory prescription eye drops are available for more significant cases. Dry eye syndrome and ocular allergies are two conditions that commonly result in inflammation of the eye. Individuals can lessen their symptoms by making changes to their environment such as avoiding allergens and dusty conditions. A licensed eye doctor will be able to determine if an eye infection is present and can then prescribe the appropriate medication. Contact lens wearers should remove their lenses if they experience abnormal symptoms of discharge.

Other Considerations

It can be of assistance to consider any other accompanying factors that are present along with the eye discharge. Simultaneous cold symptoms and sinus congestion would be a likely underlying cause and those conditions must also be addressed. If an individual has been exposed to others who have eye infections then a contagious onset may be indicated. Sleeping in contact lenses often results in inflammation, which can put the eye at risk for a sight threatening bacterial infection termed microbial keratitis. Ocular itching is a strong sign that allergies are involved. Environmental allergy factors should therefore be assessed if itching and white discharge are evident. Be sure to consult with an eye doctor to achieve a timely intervention when new or abnormal eye symptoms persist.

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