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What Causes Crusty Eyelids or Lashes?

Eye crustiness is caused by a combination of mucus, oil, skin cells and other debris that are trapped in the corner of your eye while you sleep. The crustiness starts out as a mucus discharge that washes foreign objects from the eye before they cause damage. Once the mucus reaches the outer portions of the eye, like the eyelid or eyelashes, it comes in contact with air and loses moisture, leaving behind a crust.

Conditions that Cause Crusty Eyelids

While having a little sleep in your eyes is not usually cause for concern, if you notice a difference in consistency, color or amount, it could be an indicator of an eye infection or disease.

Eye conditions associated with crusty eyes include:

Sty

A sty is a pimple-like bump found at the edge of the eyelid that is often caused by infected hair follicles. It can cause the eyelid to become red, crusty and swollen.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes are a chronic condition that occurs when the tear ducts become clogged, preventing the eyes from getting essential moisture.

Conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis is a contagious viral infection caused by a common cold, herpes or pink eye. The discharge is typically clear but can sometimes be white or yellow.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is a contagious, potentially sight-threatening bacterial infection. The crust is usually thick and may be yellow, green or gray in color. With this type of conjunctivitis, you may wake up feeling as if your eyes are completely glued shut.

Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by allergens that trigger swelling, watering, redness, or dryness. Unlike bacterial and viral conjunctivitis, the allergic form is not contagious.

Fungal Keratitis

This is a fungal infection that causes the cornea to become swollen, which may trigger a protective discharge.

Acanthamoeba Keratitis

This parasitic infection is brought on by poor contact lens hygiene or from wearing contacts in infected water. 

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a serious eye disorder associated with poor tear duct production or inflammation of the hair follicle glands.

Corneal Ulcer

This trauma-induced infection causes an abscess to form on the cornea.

Dacryocystitis

This condition is an inflammation of the passage between the tear duct and the nose that causes a small bump under the eyelid.

Crusty Eyelid Symptoms

The symptoms of crusty eyelids and eyelashes depend on the nature of the cause. Crustiness can be symptom by itself. However, if it is accompanied by swelling, redness, itchiness, pain, or discoloration, it could be a sign of a more severe eye condition.

Treatment for Crusty Eyelids

Treatment depends on the reason for having crusty eyelids or eyelashes. Normal crustiness can be remedied by washing the sleep from your eyes with a warm cloth. If your eyes are stuck shut, have someone get a warm damp cloth to lay over your eyes for a few minutes to help release the sticky crust. 

If the crust is caused by an infection, your doctor may order antibiotics or antibacterial eye drops. He or she may suggest an antihistamine to relieve mild swelling or irritation that may occur. 

If you wear contacts while you sleep and awake to eyelid crustiness, avoid wearing them for a few nights to allow your eyes to rest. 

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