STOP Fishing Mucous out of Your Eyes!

The tears that coat the surface of your eyes have both a liquid and a mucous layer to them. It is normal to have a small amount of mucus in your tear film. But that mucus can significantly increase when the eye gets irritated.

Some of the most common causes of irritation that can make the eye overproduce mucus are:

  • Conjunctivitis, which could be caused by an allergy, bacteria, or virus
  • Blepharitis, which is an inflammation of the eyelids
  • Dry Eye Syndrome

When any of these conditions occur, the eye will begin to make more mucus.  

Sometimes the mucous production really is excessive and there is a temptation to keep pulling it out with either your fingers or a cotton swab. DON'T DO THIS--it will just lead to recurring irritation and problems.

Any mucus that gets deposited OUTSIDE the eye on the outer eyelid or on the lashes is fair game for removal. In fact, anything on the exterior of the eyelid or stuck to the eyelashes should be cleaned off.  Just don’t reach INSIDE the eyelids.

Every time you go inside the eye to remove mucus, your finger or a cotton swab further irritates the eye and causes it to make even more mucus and you end up with the viscious cycle that we call mucus fishing syndrome.

If you have an acute problem that is causing excessive mucus, you need to try and get the underlying problems treated and under control. That means treating the allergy, blepharitis, infectious conjunctivitis, or dry eye syndrome.

In addition, you need to STOP putting your fingers in your eye and pulling the mucus out. Sit on your hands if you have to--but you have to stop or it is never going to get better.

If you have gone through treatment for the original problem but still find yourself pulling mucus out of your eye, you may need your doctor to try a steroid drop in order to decrease the production and try to help you get out of the habit of putting your fingers in your eyes.

  • When Your Retina Gets a Wrinkle

    A wrinkle on the retina -- which is also known as an epiretinal membrane (ERM) or a macular pucker -- is a thin, translucent tissue that develops on the surface of the retina.

    The retina is the inner layer that lines the inside of the back of the eye and is responsible for converting the light image into an electrical impulse that is then transmitted to the brain. An epiretinal membrane that forms on the retina goes unnoticed by the patient many times, and is only noticed during a dilated eye exam by an eye doctor.

    Epiretinal membranes can become problematic if they are overlying the macula, which is the part of the retina that is used for sharp central vision. When they become problematic they can cause distortion of your vision, causing objects that are normally straight to look wavy or crooked.

    Causes of a wrinkle on the retina

    The most common cause is age-related due to a posterior vitreous detachment, which is the separation of the vitreous gel from the retina. The vitreous gel is what gives the eye its shape, and it occupies the space between the lens and the retina. When the vitreous gel separates from the retina, this can release cells onto the retina's surface, which can grow and form a membrane on the macula, leading to an epiretinal membrane.

    ERMs can also be associated with prior retinal tears or detachments, prior eye trauma, or eye inflammation. These processes can also release cells onto the retina, causing a membrane to form.

    Risk factors

    Risk for ERMs increases with age, and males and females are equally affected.

    Both eyes have ERMs in 10-20% of cases.

    Diagnostic testing

    Most ERMs can be detected on a routine dilated eye exam.

    An optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a noninvasive test that takes a picture of the back of the eye. It can detect and monitor the progression of the ERM over time.

    Treatment and prognosis

    Since most ERMs are asymptomatic, no treatment is necessary. However, if there is significant visual distortion from the ERM or significant progression of the membrane over time, then surgical intervention is recommended. There are no eye drops, medications, or nutritional supplements to treat or reverse an ERM.

    The surgery is called a vitrectomy with membrane peeling. The vitrectomy removes the vitreous gel and replaces it with a saline solution. The epiretinal membrane is then peeled off the surface of the retina with forceps.

    Surgery has a good success rate and patients in general have less distortion after surgery.

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Our doctors and staff are committed to providing thorough care with personal attention. At Eye Doctors of Madison, you will find the compassionate care of a small-town doctors' office with the knowledge of a big-city institution. It is our mission to not only treat each patient uniquely but also like family.

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