Imagine this (viewer discretion is advised): you wake up in the morning, reach your arms out above you for that satisfying morning stretch, let out a satisfying groan, rub your eyes-and oh wait, you have some unfortunate dust bunnies in there. Lets be honest, it happens to the best of us. Now imagine this alternative scenario: same thing. Wake up, stretch, rub your eyes. But instead of those minuscule dust bunnies, you literally can’t open your eyes at all. Your eyes are glued shut by the own mucus of your eyes. You have no option but to run to the bathroom (blinded) and run warm water on your eyes until you have drained all the mucus out of your eyes. Not only does this happen to you in the morning, but during various parts of the day.
This was a reality for me a couple years ago. This syndrome, known as Mucus Fishing syndrome is a OCD victim’s nightmare. Mucus fishing syndrome involves the constant build up of mucus in the eyes, resulting from inflammation or infection of the cornea or around the eyelid. Once you succumb to the ugly aspect of it-actually placing your finger on your eyeball to remove the stringy, clear mucus, you’re hooked. Yes, hooked, but in the worst possible way ever. Once your eye has been exposed to that level of viral touch, a vicious cycle of never-ending removal will occur. Along with the constant string of mucus in the eyes, victims of the syndrome will experience irritation, redness, eye conjunctivitis, possible eyesight hindrance, and other eye-related infections.
The most detrimental symptom of this syndrome is right there in the name- fishing. Once you start trying to fish out the mucus in your eye, it doesn’t stop. It’s a continuous cycle that is unbelievably hard to stop. According to Dr. Paul Ajamian, victims of the Mucus Fishing Syndrome can experience symptoms for extended periods of time- weeks, months, and even years. Because it is so subjective to the individual, treatment cannot occur without self willingness and determination. The first step to treatment is much like one they teach you in any rehabilitation center: accept it. I doubted myself for the longest time when I started experiencing symptoms, and felt too embarrassed to go to the doctor and explain that I was pulling out long, white strings out of my eyes. Let’s be honest- would you believe it if someone told you that? Not only does it sound highly disturbing, but the very description of the syndrome can send anyone running for the hills.
What is interesting about this particular syndrome is it’s relationship (possible?) with OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Since the most common symptom involves continuously fishing out mucus from the eyes, this can be linked to the anxiety driven aspects of OCD. Personally, I suffer from OCD in a mild sense, to the point where I do not feel satisfied with certain things. For example, if I were to write a series of notes during class and found my handwriting to be insufficient towards my own expectations, I would go home and rewrite the whole thing until I felt satisfied. Granted, I used to do this in middle school. Imagine doing this in college-that would be the least time-efficient task I could burden myself with. Sometimes I wonder if there really is any causal relationship between my mild OCD and the development of mucus fishing syndrome a couple years back. In one particular study, Molly Cardenal and Deborah Williams describe a 52 year old female patient who was suffering from extreme Mucus fishing Syndrome and Trichotillomania (obsessive pulling and removal of the hair). She was concerned with the actions of her own symptoms, and desperately sought out help. Ultimately, she received care through electroshock therapy and counseling services, which dramatically improved her condition. She was noted for being treated for obsessive compulsive disorder/mania. This study certainly exemplifies the relationship between Mucus fishing syndrome and OCD, but it’s important to note that correlation does not equal causation. For example, it is possible that this happened by chance but it is also possible that OCD was a supplemental factor in the development of Mucus fishing syndrome and Trichotillomania. It is also possible that confounding variables such as the patient’s medical history, family’s medical history, and environmental conditions had some role in the development of the syndromes. To determine if there really is a causal relationship between OCD and Mucus fishing syndrome, further randomized studies would need to be done, possibly with a large sample to ensure further credibility. That being said, the syndrome itself is not that prevalent that this sort of study would be realistic today.
I’m lucky enough to be cured of this awful syndrome today, and hope that no one will ever encounter it and the terrible inconvenience it entails. God forbid you already have this syndrome- check out these tips for getting rid of the symptoms.