Sticky eye describes a yellowish discharge from one or both of a baby's eyes, which often develops into crusting. It is common in the first few months, and is most often caused by a blocked tear duct. At birth, the end of these ducts closest to the nose is sometimes covered with a thin membrane which tends to break open within a couple of weeks, allowing the tears to drain through into the corners of the eyes. The eyes of most newborns begin producing tears at about three weeks of age. However, if the covering membrane does not break open fully, the ducts remain wholly or partially plugged and tears may accumulate. If the tear fluid does not drain away, it can become infected and yellow.
Other causes of sticky eye in babies may include infection contracted during childbirth from sexually transmitted infections, or from contact with childbirth blood or amniotic fluid. In an older child, sticky eye is often a symptom of a common cold -but it may be a sign of conjunctivitis, in which the eyes water, smart and the white becomes pink and inflamed.
When to seek further professional advice
If you think your child has got sticky eye you should take them to see a doctor.
Homeopathy: General remedies for older infants may include pulsatilla for thick, non-irritant discharge, euphrasia if the eyes are watering but become gummed up with sticky mucus. If the eyes are burning, watery and red but improve in warmer air, allium cepa may be appropriate.
Western Herbalists may suggest washing the affected eye with local applications of soothing, cooled herb infusions, which are made from any of the following: marigold, purple loose-strife, American cranesbill, marshmallow, golden seal or eyebright.
If there is pus and inflammation of the conjunctiva, it is essential to take swabs and start treatment:
In infants, antibiotic eye drops and warm sterile water can be used to cleanse the eyes regularly.
For older children, conjunctivitis may be treated with antibiotics or, in cases of allergy-related sticky eye, antihistamine drops under the supervision of an opthalmologist.
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