Experts have warned against taking 'eye mucus' out yourself, can impact vision and mental health 

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Are YOU guilty of mucus fishing? Doctors warn against addictive trend for cleaning gunk out of the eyes fuelled by TikTok videos

  • A trend on TikTok saw people taking mucus out of their eyes with cotton buds
  • It became popular in early 2021, with #mucusremoval gaining 183million views
  • But NHS surgical doctor Dr Karan Rajan says the more you pull the worse it gets


Have you ever wiped your eyes in the morning to remove that gunk sitting in the tear ducts? An expert has warned that it could be putting your eye health at risk if it turns into a habit you just can’t ditch. 

In early 2021, the hashtags #mucusremoval and #mucusfishing garnered more than 190.7 million views worldwide, as people shared videos of themselves removing strings of mucus from their eyes.

But an NHS surgical doctor, Dr Karan Rajan, who has 4.6millon followers on his TikTok account where he provides insight into day-to-day health questions, has told audiences that taking out this mucus can lead to health issues.

In the video, he stitched someone filming themselves taking out a string of mucus to say: ‘If you’re constantly “fishing” out mucus from your eyes using a finger, tissue or cotton bud, you might have a problem.

‘Dry eyes, conjunctivitis, anything which causes inflammation of the eyes produces excess mucus.

Dr Karan Rajan, a surgical doctor for the NHS stitched a video of someone filming themselves taking out a string of mucus with a cotton bud

In response to the clip, he said: 'If you're constantly "fishing" out mucus from your eyes using a finger, tissue or cotton bud, you might have a problem'

In the video by Dr Karan Rajan, he stitched someone filming themselves taking out a string of mucus to say: ‘If you’re constantly “fishing” out mucus from your eyes using a finger, tissue or cotton bud, you might have a problem’

‘Every time you go to clean it, you touch your eyes, causing more inflammation and more mucus!’

Another surgeon, Dr Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon from Detroit with over 7.5million followers, gives medical advice on his TikTok page. 

Similarly to Dr Rajan, he explained that the more you pull out the mucus from your eyes, the more it reappears.

According to Clinical Director at Vyas Lee Practice, Jordan Vyas-Lee told Indy100 that this problem can have a knock-on effect to your mental health as well. 

NHS surgical doctor, Dr Karan Rajan, who has 4.6millon followers on his TikTok that taking out this mucus can lead to health issues

Dr Rajan said in the video: 'Dry eyes, conjunctivitis, anything which causes inflammation of the eyes produces excess mucus'

NHS surgical doctor, Dr Karan Rajan, who has 4.6millon followers on his TikTok account where he provides insight into day-to-day health questions, has told audiences that taking out this mucus can lead to health issues

He explained that those who suffer with mucus fishing syndrome ‘may experience anxiety about being unable to control the issue’.

Another thing he noted was that people’s self-worth could also be knocked due to ‘image concerns’ that ‘result from repeated body-picking trauma’. 

But many users on TikTok said similar tales on both videos from Dr Rajan and Dr Youn in that they don’t know how to stop pulling the mucus out. 

But many users on TikTok said similar tales on both videos from Dr Rajan and Dr Youn in that they don't know how to stop pulling the mucus out as it is 'addictive'

But many users on TikTok said similar tales on both videos from Dr Rajan and Dr Youn in that they don’t know how to stop pulling the mucus out as it is ‘addictive’

TikTok user Maeve said that the ‘feeling of pulling it in one go is just addictive’, and another person said if they don’t remove it, it seems to get worse.

Aliceteejay said: ‘Me doing this every five seconds as I hate the thought of having stuff in my eye.’

Frankie said: ‘How do you stop it from happening then? I get them all the time.’ 

In order to stop mucus fishing, there are a few things that you can do – the main one being to let your eyes deal with the mucus by itself, and resist the temptation to keep taking it out whenever you see or feel it. 

The underlying condition should begin to subside when the fishing stops, as the mucus production will slow down, eventually stopping the need to fish.  

Another doctor Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon from Detroit with over 7.5million followers, gives medical advice on his TikTok page. Similarly to Dr Rajan, he explained that the more you pull out the mucus from your eyes, the more it reappears

Another doctor Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon from Detroit with over 7.5million followers, gives medical advice on his TikTok page. Similarly to Dr Rajan, he explained that the more you pull out the mucus from your eyes, the more it reappears

What is mucus fishing syndrome?

According to Healthline, mucus fishing syndrome is when you fish out mucus from your eye repeatedly.

Most people will take out the strands of mucus from their eye when they see it appear as it can slightly irritate your eyes.

But doing so can irritate it even more, and produce even more mucus in the process.

The repetition of this act of taking your mucus out causes an ‘ongoing cycle of mucus production and removal’, and increases your chances of developing an infection.

Symptoms of mucus fishing syndrome are: 

  • Redness
  • Tear production
  • Stinging, irritation, or pain
  • Inflammation

 It can be caused by:

  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Blepharitis or inflammation of the eyelids  
  • Dacryocystitis – inflammation of the lacrimal sac that causes tears to back up
  • Body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) disorder

It can be treated by breaking your habit – doctors will tell you to stop touching your eye and taking the mucus out. 

According to Healthline, you can also try treating the bad habit by using the following remedies to treat any underlying conditions: 

  • Lubricating eye drops
  • Warm or cold compresses
  • Antibiotics
  • Steroid eye drops 

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