You might hear people refer to eye discharge as eye goop, eye gunk, or even eye boogers, but if you have excessive eye discharge, you might have a bacterial infection.

Do you have a thick discharge coming from one or both eyes? After you wipe it away, does it come back? Read on to learn about the causes of eye discharge, the symptoms, and how to treat it.

Here are some signs you might have a bacterial infection in your eye:

  • puffy eyelids
  • mucus, pus or excessive tearing from eye
  • yellow or green discharge in eye
  • discharge comes back after being wiped away
  • dried discharge on eyelashes and eyelids
  • eyelashes stuck together after sleep
  • whites of the eye red or pink (sometimes they remain normal)
  • light sensitivity

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Also called pink eye, bacterial conjunctivitis is a bacterial infection of the eye’s mucous membrane (conjunctiva) and it is very contagious. Sometimes the bacteria that cause bacterial conjunctivitis is the same that causes strep throat.

Bacterial keratitis

This is an infection of the cornea typically caused by Staphylococcus aureus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Bacterial keratitis can cause blindness if left untreated.

Corneal ulcer

This is an open sore on the cornea that often is the result of an eye infection. A corneal ulcer requires immediate attention as it could permanently damage your vision.

Blocked tear duct

When your eye’s tear drainage system is partially blocked or completely obstructed, your tears are unable to properly drain, which can lead to infection.

Eyelid cellulitis

This is an infection of the eyelid and tissues around it that commonly only occurs on one side. Eyelid cellulitis is often a complication of bacterial conjunctivitis.


Sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea or chlamydia can cause a conjunctivitis infection. Herpes can also cause an eye infection known as herpes simplex keratitis.

  • Foreign object. Sometimes you eye will produce pus to deal with a small particle — such as dirt or sand — that got under your eyelid and was not removed.
  • Normal discharge. If you wake up and find a little bit of crusty dried mucus in the corner of your eye, gently wipe it away with warm water. If it doesn’t come back the rest of the day, it may be a reaction to an irritant and might not even be pus.

Make an appointment to see your doctor if:

Excessive amounts of yellow or green pus in your eye could be a symptom of a bacterial eye infection. Bacterial eye infections are typically not harmful to your vision, especially if caught early.

In many cases, you doctor will prescribe antibiotic eye drops, which are commonly a quick and effective cure.

To avoid eye infections, try not to touch your eyes and the area around them. If you need to rub, scratch, or otherwise touch your eyes, thoroughly wash your hands first.