Rheum (//; from Greek: ῥεῦμα rheume "a flowing, rheum"), also known as gound, is thin mucus naturally discharged from the eyes, nose, or mouth during sleep (cf. mucopurulent discharge). Rheum dries and gathers as a crust in the corners of the eyes or the mouth, on the eyelids, or under the nose. It is formed by a combination of mucus (in the case of the eyes, consisting of mucin discharged from the cornea or the conjunctiva), nasal mucus, blood cells, skin cells, or dust. Rheum from the eyes is particularly common. Dried rheum is commonly called sleep, sleepy sand, eye goop or sleep dust.
When the individual is awake, blinking of the eyelid causes rheum to be washed away with tears via the nasolacrimal duct. The absence of this action during sleep, however, results in a small amount of dry rheum accumulating in corners of the eye, most notably in children.
A number of conditions can increase the production of rheum in the eye. In the case of allergic conjunctivitis, the buildup of rheum can be considerable, many times preventing the sufferer from opening the eye upon waking without prior cleansing of the eye area. The presence of pus in an instance of heavy rheum buildup can indicate dry eye or conjunctivitis, among other infections.
In popular culture
- Rheum was used as a major plot element in an episode of Doctor Who, in which the monster of the day is entirely made of it.
- "Rheum (discharge)". Memidex Dictionary/Thesaurus. 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- Amodio, Aimee."Where Do Eye Boogers Come From?", Families.com blog
- Hiskey, Daven. "What the 'Sleep' In Your Eyes Is", Today I Found Out, 23 February 2011.
- Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-920687-2.
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