Why Eyes With Pinkeye Often Seal Shut During Sleep

Having any kind of eye problem like pinkeye is a nuisance enough, but waking up to find that one or both of your eyes have become stuck shut is downright alarming. If you've had this problem or you're worried about it happening, read on to learn why this happens and what you can do about it.

What Pinkeye Is

In essence, pinkeye is simply a viral infection of the eye, tear duct, and surrounding structures. The infection causes problems like swelling and pain, and when the body goes to work trying to beat the virus, it can get worse before it gets better. This is why your eye appears inflamed and reddish or pink, which is where the illness gets its name.

Like most infections, pinkeye doesn't stop at creating pain and inflammation. The body has to deal with the infection, and it does so by targeting it with white blood cells. When the white blood cells defeat part of the virus, that's where the trouble with sealed eyelids begins.

Overnight Discharge

You may have noticed having a problem during the day with a pus-like white or yellow substance coming out of your tear ducts. This stuff can flow almost constantly when you're awake, and it doesn't stop just because your eyes are closed while you're asleep.

This discharge is actually your body excreting dead viral matter and dead white blood cells. Once the white blood cells have defeated a portion of the virus, that dead matter has to go somewhere. In eye infections, it comes out through the tear ducts.

If you've noticed this discharge coming out during the day, you've probably noticed that it's thick and sticky. This is exactly why your eyelids get stuck in the closed position while you're sleeping. The discharge flows out overnight and forms a sort of glue over your shut eyelids.

What to Do About It

Thankfully, getting your eyes open when you wake up isn't too hard to do. You should avoid trying to simply pry your eyelids apart. While you might succeed, you could potentially rip out eyelashes and even harm your skin.

Instead, using very warm water, soak a washcloth and lay it over your eye. Let it sit for a while so that the moisture and warmth can loosen up the discharge that's holding your eyelid shut. When the cloth starts to lose its warmth, gently wipe the eye with the cloth and try opening it. You should be able to at least partially open it. Repeat the process until you can open the eye all the way.

If both eyes are affected, repeat the process with the other eye, but use a clean cloth to prevent cross-contamination between eyes.

Pinkeye can be a real nuisance, especially if you keep waking up unable to open your eyes. If you haven't seen a doctor for your pinkeye yet, make sure to visit one to ensure that it is indeed pinkeye. You may also qualify for antiviral medication, which could help you to beat the illness faster. You can get more information by clicking here.