What You Should Know About Mucus Fishing Syndrome


Mucus fishing syndrome is condition in which you repeatedly “fish” or pull strands of mucus from your eye.

A number of eye problems can cause mucus to form. When the sticky substance starts to irritate your eye, it might seem like a good idea to pull at the strands to remove the mucus. But the act of pulling out the mucus irritates the eye even more. This causes your eye to produce more mucus.

As you repeat this behavior, it creates an ongoing cycle of mucus production and removal.

Read more to learn more about the conditions that can cause eye mucus, plus how to break the cycle of mucus fishing syndrome.

What are the symptoms?

If you have mucus fishing syndrome, you frequently pull strands of mucus from your eye. This can increase eye irritation, mucus production, and the chance of developing an infection. Symptoms of eye infection include:

  • redness
  • tear production
  • stinging, irritation, or pain
  • inflammation
What causes mucus fishing syndrome?

Mucus fishing syndrome has to do with the cyclical pattern of producing and removing mucus strands from your eye.

Here are some of the conditions that can cause your eye to produce too much mucus.

Dry eye syndrome

If you have dry eye syndrome, your tears are of poor quality and don’t provide adequate lubrication to the eye. This can cause your eyes to produce excessive amounts of tears to the point of overflow. Wiping and touching your eye can lead to inflammation, irritation, and infection.

Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Conjunctivitis can be due to an allergy, irritant, virus, or bacteria. Symptoms can include redness, irritation, and excessive watering in the eye. It can also produce a thick yellow or green mucus discharge.


Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids. It can be due to abnormal or insufficient oil secretion in your tears. It can cause excessive tear production, redness, and crusty eyelashes, especially in the morning. It can be a recurring condition.


Dacryocystitis is an infection of the tear ducts that may occur due to blockage. It’s more likely to affect infants, but adults can get it, too. The main symptom is eye discharge.

Body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) disorder

Mucus fishing syndrome can also be due to body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) disorder. This is similar to repetitive hair pulling, skin picking, or nail biting. This is more than just a habit. It’s a behavior that’s difficult to control and can be harmful to your health.

If you have a BFRB, you might be more inclined to fish for mucus when you’re stressed or bored. BFRB usually starts in childhood or adolescence. It may affect as many as 1 in 20 people.

How’s it diagnosed?

Any time you have persistent mucus discharge from your eye, see your eye doctor. It’s important to get the right diagnosis. Early intervention can prevent the situation from worsening.

If you tell your doctor you’ve been pulling mucus out of your eye, it will likely lead to the diagnosis. If you don’t volunteer the information, the diagnosis can take longer.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with mucus fishing syndrome, your doctor will want to identify the original cause of your eye irritation.

Your doctor will examine both the surface and back of the eye. They’ll need to dilate your eyes in order to do this. Be prepared to wait to about an hour to drive after dilation. If possible, enlist somebody to drive you home from your appointment.

If you believe you have BFRB disorder, make an appointment with a therapist as well.

How’s it treated?

The treatment for mucus fishing syndrome is to break your fishing habit. Your doctor will instruct you to stop touching your eye and pulling at the mucus.

Additional treatment may be necessary if you have dry eye syndrome, conjunctivitis, or another eye condition. Some potential treatments for these conditions include:

  • lubricating eye drops
  • warm or cold compresses
  • antibiotics
  • steroid eye drops

Read more: The best pink eye remedies »

Once you stop fishing and treat the underlying condition, your eyes should start to improve. Eventually, mucus production will slow down and you’ll no longer feel the need to fish.

If the underlying condition has been treated, but you still can’t break the fishing pattern, talk to your doctor.

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