A stye, which a doctor might call a hordeolum, is a bump that develops on the eyelid or at the base of the eyelashes. A bacterial infection is the cause of most styes.
The majority of styes will disappear on their own, with or without treatment, within 1 or 2 weeks.
However, there are a number of things a person can do to get rid of a stye. Keep reading to learn more about them, as well as some causes, symptoms, and reasons to see a doctor.
The following home remedies may help ease the pain of a stye:
1. Warm compresses
Put a very warm, but not hot or scalding, wet compress on the eye for short periods of time a few times per day.
This can help open up the glands and drain the stye more quickly. It may temporarily ease the pain.
However, one study found no conclusive evidence that this technique helps heal the stye.
2. Eye hygiene
It is important to keep the eye area clean. Styes are contagious, which means that it is possible to spread the bacteria to other people and to other parts of the eye. Bacteria that get into the stye can worsen the infection and slow healing.
Following these tips can help prevent the infection from getting worse:
- Avoid sharing any eye care products, including eye drops and eye makeup.
- Do not try to pop or squeeze the stye.
- Avoid rubbing or touching the eyes, unless to apply medication or compresses.
- Wash the hands with soap and water before and after touching the eye to apply medication or compresses.
- Gently rinse the eye if dirt or dust gets under the eyelid.
- Avoid wearing contact lenses until the stye heals.
3. Pain medication
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication may also ease the pain of a stye.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can reduce inflammation and might therefore help with burning and swelling.
4. OTC stye remedies
Many drugstores sell eye drops that may help relieve the pain of styes. These remedies will not heal the stye, but they may help ease the pain.
Only apply these remedies with clean hands, and do not allow the tip of the bottle to touch the eye.
Very large styes and those that do not go away on their own may need medical treatment. A doctor may recommend one of the following options:
Antibiotics can kill the bacteria that cause a stye to grow. This prevents the stye from spreading and eases the pain.
It is important to use the right antibiotic for the specific bacterium infecting the eye, so a person should not reuse old antibiotics. In most cases, a doctor will recommend antibiotics in the form of eye drops or eye cream.
In rare cases, a stye can cause a systemic infection that spreads to other areas of the body. People with weak immune systems are more vulnerable to such infections.
When this type of infection occurs, a person may need oral or intravenous antibiotics.
Steroids can help the body heal itself more quickly. A doctor may inject a steroid into the stye to promote healing and reduce pain.
Steroids in the form of topical creams and eye drops may also help, but a person should talk to a doctor before trying these remedies.
When a stye does not go away or turns into a chalazion, a doctor may recommend surgery. A chalazion is similar in appearance to a stye, but it results from a blocked oil gland rather than an infected oil gland.
A simple procedure, which a person usually undergoes under local anesthetic, can drain the stye. Draining it may also prevent the stye from coming back.
An external stye develops when one of the hair follicles of the eyelashes becomes infected. Internal styes affect the underside of the eyelid.
The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus causes most styes, though other bacteria, including other types of staph — such as Staphylococcus epidermis — can also cause styes.
Anyone can get a stye, because most people carry the type of staph that causes the infection.
Anything that causes these bacteria to spread to the eyes can increase the risk of developing a stye. Some potential risk factors include:
- having a weak immune system due to diabetes or another medical condition
- having blepharitis, a condition that causes skin irritation on the eyelid
- having a previous history of styes
- having high serum lipids
- having a skin condition such as rosacea
- sharing eye makeup with someone who has a stye
- using makeup or eye care products that irritate the eyes or block the hair follicles of the eyelids
A stye is a painful bump or lump near the eye. However, it may take several days for the bump to grow large enough to be visible.
Some people notice pain, burning, or irritation in the eye area before the bump appears.
Some other symptoms of a stye include:
- a red bump or lump that may resemble a pimple at either the base of the eyelashes or under the eyelid
- a sensation that something is in the eye
- sensitivity to light
- difficulty fully opening the eye, especially if it is very swollen
- oozing or irritation
A similar condition called a chalazion appears when the oil glands of the eyelid become clogged. Some chalazia are painless. These bumps can grow very large, and they sometimes appear after a stye heals.
Learn more about the differences between a chalazion and a stye here.
A person should see a doctor if:
- a stye does not get better with home treatment
- other signs of an infection, such as a fever, develop
- a baby or very young child has a stye
- a person with a stye has a recent history of eye injuries, such as being poked in the eye
- a person frequently gets styes or often experiences eyelid irritation
- a person with a stye has trouble seeing
- the eyelid swells shut
- there is blood oozing from the eyelid or the stye
Although most styes do not require medical treatment, a doctor can often prescribe antibiotics or pain relief medication to ease the symptoms and quickly clear the infection.
If symptoms interfere with daily life or become very painful, it is best to see a doctor.
Styes can be painful, but they are not usually dangerous. Home treatment is usually safe and effective.
For larger styes, surgical and antibiotic treatments are available.
Sometimes, a more serious condition may appear to be a stye, so if the symptoms do not improve or seem very severe, do not delay consulting a doctor.