Mom Should Have Washed Your Eye With Soap!

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Mom Should Have Washed Your Eye With Soap!

Did you know your eye is as dirty as your mouth? The eye, nose and mouth are anatomically connected and can share bacteria and other pathogens,

Your eye is as dirty as your mouth.  The bacteria found on the eyeball and in the nose and mouth are very similar.  The three areas are all connected anatomically and bacteria are free to roam to and fro.  While each organ does have its own particular defense system to fight infection, the eye, by no means is “clean.”

It’s Why Your Nose Runs When You Cry

When you cry, you need to blow your nose.  When you use ophthalmic drops, you get a funny taste in your mouth.  The reason?  The tears drain right into your nose, or rather, your nasal cavity.

Tear system: a. tear gland / lacrimal gland, b...

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The Anatomical Pathway of the Tears to Your Nose

a.  Lacrimal gland – resides in the upper/outer portion of the upper eyelid

b/e.  Punctum (“tear duct”) – small pinpoint openings on upper and lower lids, near your nose

c/f.  Canaliculus – connect each puncta to the lacrimal sac

d.  Lacrimal sac – internal collection point of the tears, located on the side of your nose, just below the bridge

g.  Nasolacrimal duct – connects the lacrimal sac to the internal portion of your nasal cavity, tears empty here.

That’s proof that the two areas are connected.  Bacteria can travel in the reverse direction.

There are Two Ways to Clear Your Nose

One of the more common ways to clear your nose is by using a tissue.  The other method, preferred by all boys in the Wong household, is the reverse of blowing your nose.

The “suck” method avoids the use of the tissue and allows internal disposal of the secretions by…um, well swallowing.

My point?  It demonstrates a clear connections between nose, mouth and ….eye.

What Does This Mean?

There are a few  practical advantages to now admitting that your eye is dirty.  It helps me guide my patients with respect to their post-operative care.

First, after retinal surgery, there are always concerns about washing hair and taking a shower.  What happens if water gets in my eye?  After a reminder that the three structures are all connected, it is clear that getting water in your eye during bathing is probably pretty safe (check with your own doctor for his opinion, please).

Also, there is a fear that something may get into your eye while at work.  Remember, your eye is as clean as your nose and mouth!

Mother nature has also supplied the eye with a few ways to fight infection.  Within the tears are lysozyme, immunoglobulin and lysin – all natural elements that combat bacteria and other foreign agents.

In addition, we also recommend antibiotic drops.

So, while your eye may have the potential to be laden with dirty organisms from your nose and mouth, it is unlikely you will get anything in there that is…dirtier.  If in fact you do, mother nature and your antibiotic drops are there just in case!


Randall V. Wong, M.D.

Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

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  • John Farrell March 9, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    This is very interesting. Last Saturday, I spent most of the day in a hospital in PA visiting Donna’s 92 year old aunt, who is now under hospice care. During the 3 hour drive home, my right eye became irritated like it was very dry. For the last hour of the drive, I was blinking rapidly to keep driving. When I got home, I used eye drops and took some ibuprophen. After a couple days of that routine, the eye is feeling much better but there is still some lingering soreness. I don’t have a cold or other signs of getting a bug at the hospital so can I assume whatever I got wound up in my eye?

    • Randall V. Wong, M.D. March 9, 2010 at 7:24 pm

      Sounds more like a corneal problem more than anything else. Glad it has resolved.


  • Matt Gunter October 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    This guy at work has necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis and spits when he talks. He began taking specific antibiotics for his condition last night. Earlier today though, he was within range, and I got saliva on my left eyelid. I freaked out and ran to the restroom to wash my eyelid, but my eye has been hurting ever since. Maybe it is in my head, or I got soap in my eye? Is his mouth bacteria in danger of hurting my eye? thanks.

    • Randall V. Wong, M.D. October 28, 2010 at 12:45 am

      Sounds like a pretty nasty situation, but I wouldn’t freak out. Regardless of the cause of his gingivitis, there isn’t anything that he could “spit” into your eye and cause you problems.

      Disgusting…sure. Problem, probably not. My disclaimer is that if you are concerned see your eye doctor.

      All the best.


  • Simeon April 18, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Dear Doctor,
    My son is now 37. When he was 23 he had uveitis of one eye followed by vitrectomy, eye was filled with silicone, then the lens was also removed because of cataract. The retina has holes and he only can see light with this eye. We think that his uveitis was caused by frequent nose blowing because of his allergy and hay fever.
    Unfortunately he still has some, though suppressed, hay fever and we are worried that he could have problems with his other eye.
    Can you give us an advice regarding his general state and the future of the eye, which is still filled with silicone.

    • Randall V. Wong, M.D. April 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      Dear Simeon,

      Doubt the uveitis was caused by allergy. Uveitis can be, and often is, bilatera.

      I would recommend regular examinations with his specialists.


  • Karin April 19, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Dr. Wong,

    I have an unusual situation with pink eye. I’ve had (4) incidents within the last month… No one at home or work has it, so I cannot contribute it to “catching” the germ…
    Both eyes are in play but my left is more infected than the right eye. When pressing against the inside of my left eye it does feel like a small lump in the tear duct with a slight grainy feel.

    What do you suggest. I have seen my Eye Dr. but all I get are eye drops which are not helping.

    • Randall V. Wong, M.D. April 21, 2012 at 8:05 am

      Dear Karin,

      I’m wondering if you have something else other than pink eye. See/Find a cornea specialist.


  • Lisa June 9, 2012 at 11:23 am

    My eye has been watering for a couple of days for no obvious reason. Today it went really sore and the feeling of pressure started to build. I used a couple of soothing drops with no effect. I sneezed and blood came out of my left nostril and a blacky grey mucous plug….the pressure seems to have gone now. Is this all linked? Can make up block your eye drainage?

    • Randall V. Wong, M.D. June 18, 2012 at 9:35 am

      Dear Lisa,

      No idea. Can’t examine you. By now, symptoms must have cleared. If not, make sure to consult your doctor.


  • Ellen McLatten July 7, 2012 at 4:29 am

    Hi there,

    I was trying to loosen the top of a strawberry pomegranate antibacterial soap that I got from the Dollar Tree today. In the process of me trying to twist it, when it popped up, soap shot in my eye. It was the most painful burn. Of course, I started to panic and freak out. I am not the best about rinsing out my eye. I’m a big baby. So I started to break down and cry for a good 5 minutes if not longer until my nose starting pouring too. I went back to put a cup to my eye. I think water got in there at least once. Two and a half hours later, my eye feels less burny, but the inside tear duct spot, that area close to my nose feels so sore. Is this damaging? Can I go blind or damage my eye in a nonrepairable way because it’s antibacterial? Will it kill the good germs in my eye? What should I do? The internet really freaks me out and I called a nurse hotline and it wasn’t helpful. Am I panicking for no reason? Please help me. This situation happened at 2:50 am. It’s 4:35am and I am going to rest. I really need some advice. Please. I am pretty scared.

    • Randall V. Wong, M.D. July 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Dear Eileen,

      Anti-bacterial soap will sting, but not disrupt any of the normal bacteria found around the eye.

      Most hand soaps and shampoos will cause stinging largely due to the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the agent.

      Hope you are well.


  • Joseph August 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Dr.Wong, I had multiple vitrectomy because of the Vitreous Hemorrhage and the last he put the silicone oil. Until now, sometime I felt the eye pressure is increase, so he gave me eye drop to reduce it. What my concern is until when the eye pressure can be stabilize or I have to keep using the eye drop forever? Beside, my doctor couldn’t tell where is the blood came from and what caused it, he just guessing that was probably due to the irritated scar of a laser treatment I ever had some 30 years ago when I have my Left Retine Vein Occlusion. Months before I notice that my vision became blur, I always have a little dry blood came off from my left nostril when I sneezed in the morning, so is it the same blood caused my vitreous hemorrhage, came from either my sinus or nasal-pharynx to the retina, or the blood came from my choroid discharged to the nostril? Thank you.

    • Randall V. Wong, M.D. August 28, 2012 at 8:52 am

      Dear Joseph,

      Sometimes the drops are needed for short time, a long time or forever depending on the cause of the high pressure. Usually the drops are simply needed for a short time.

      No the blood inside the eye is NOT related to your bloody nose/nasal-pharynx.


  • Kristen Haney August 26, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    I’ve heard that you should not blow your nose after retina surgery, is this true?

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