From dancing to cooking recipes, TikTok has been the source of many viral trends. However, the app has also been known to be the start of many dangerous health trends such as dry scooping and DIY mole removals.

These challenges encourage users to engage in dangerous acts without knowledge of the consequences these can have on their body. While many of these trends are well-intentioned and are the result of experimenting, the results have horrified dentists, doctors and optometrists alike.

One of the latest trends that has taken over the popular social media platform is mucus fishing. TikTokers have taken to the app to share videos of them pulling strands of mucus from their eyes, not knowing that they can be causing more harm than good.

Lenstore experts reveal the dangers behind the latest TikTok trend and what you should do if you experience mucus in your eyes.

What is mucus fishing? Why is mucus coming out of my eye?

As a result of infection, dryness, or a variety of other factors, the eye can produce a sticky mucus that often gathers at the corners of the eye and can crust on the eyelashes.

This sticky substance can become irritating, and for many, it can become tempting to pull at the strands to remove the mucus from the eye, both to reduce the discomfort and for a sense of satisfaction – with many TikTok videos recording it to share with others.

However, by removing the mucus, the eye becomes even more irritated, and this results in the creation of more mucus, prolonging the issue and starting a cycle of “mucus fishing”.

What are the symptoms of mucus fishing?

While mucus fishing itself isn’t so much a disease as a habit, it can cause other symptoms to develop.

The main problem that arises is increased mucus production as a result of the fishing, which in turn leads to further mucus fishing.

As a byproduct, there may be higher production of tears and redness of the eyes, as well as stinging, irritation, or pain due to inflammation.

What can cause it?

Mucus fishing itself is a habit that arises from trying to wipe away excess mucus. But the mucus can be as a result of a wide variety of different causes:

  • Dry eyes – dry eyes are common for many different reasons, from tiredness to allergies to excessive screen usage. As a result, the eye isn’t sufficiently lubricated and mucus can be discharged.
  • Conjunctivitis – conjunctivitis is an infection as a result of an allergy, bacteria, irritation, or a virus, and is very common. It can cause redness and irritation on its own, as well as a thick yellow-green mucus discharge that can dry and become crusty.
  • Dacryocystitis – with dacryocystitis, the tear ducts can become blocked and infected, which can lead to discharge of mucus.
  • Blepharitis – blepharitis is where insufficient oil in the tears can cause irritation and excessive tear production, leading to crust in the eyelashes.

How it is diagnosed

If the mucus production reaches a point which requires you to speak with a medical professional, you should inform them whether you’ve been wiping mucus from your eye as this can assist with diagnosis and help them direct you in treatment options.

Once you stop removing the excess mucus, the doctor will need to diagnose the original cause of the mucus production, and will examine your eye directly.

How is mucus fishing treated?

The main method of ending the cycle of mucus fishing is to allow your eye to deal with the mucus naturally, rather than fishing it out with your finger or a cotton bud.

You can also treat the initial cause of the mucus production directly. Depending on the specific origin, this may involve the use of lubricating eye drops, warm compresses, steroid eye drops or antibiotics.

How to treat Conjunctivitis

One of the most common causes of excess mucus is conjunctivitis. It often leads to irritation and inflammation that may encourage you to rub your eyes – but this can lengthen the issues on its own.

If you do need to touch your eyes, ensure you wash them thoroughly beforehand to avoid spreading any additional bacteria.

If necessary, to remove crust from the eyelashes, use a moistened cotton pad or swab and gently run it along the edges of the eyelid. Use a fresh item for each eye to avoid spreading the infection.

Conjunctivitis usually clears up in 7-14 days on its own, but you can also get antibiotic drops if it does not, or if it seems to be taking longer.

How long does it last?

Mucus fishing is a habit that will only stop when you make an active effort to stop doing it. Continuing with mucus fishing can prolong the symptoms caused by other issues – whether conjunctivitis or dry eyes or another source of irritation – and should be minimised.

Once you eliminate the habit from your routine, it may be necessary to treat the origin of the excess mucus before it subsides, though in many cases it may clear up on its own.

Tips for healthy eyes

For maintaining eye health and reducing the likelihood of excess mucus and inflammation, follow these quick tips:

  • Avoid touching your eyes where possible – our hands are the biggest spreaders of bacteria and dirt, and by touching them to our eyes it makes it easy to spread infection.
  • Avoid excessive screen time – one of the leading causes of dry eyes is significant screen time that causes us to blink less. By taking regular breaks and looking at objects that are further away, you can reduce dryness and the likelihood of irritation.
  • Clean your glasses regularly if you wear them – glasses can easily pick up infectious material from your hands, and they’re cleaned less regularly. Using a small amount of dish soap and a microfibre cloth, you can clean the lenses as well as the frame.
  • Remain hydrated – dehydration can cause your eyes to become dry and irritated, leading to excess mucus production and possibly a mucus fishing habit. Maintain good levels of hydration to avoid this.

Avoid contact lenses if your eyes are irritated – contact lenses can contribute to dryer eyes and cause greater irritation. If your eyes are facing infection, for example from conjunctivitis, using contact lenses can also cause the infection to spread faster.