What is a Stye?
A stye (hordeolum) is a common, non-contagious bacterial infection of the eyelid. It appears as a tender, red bump on the edge of the eyelid and can be caused by an infected eyelash follicle or oil gland. Most styes resolve on their own within a week, but some can become quite painful and may require treatment.
What are the Symptoms of a Stye?
The following are the most common symptoms of a stye:
- A tender, swollen bump on the edge of the eyelid
- Pain or discomfort in the affected area
- Redness and inflammation
- A crusty eyelid or eyelashes
- Blurred vision in severe cases
What Causes a Stye?
Styes are most commonly caused by a bacterial infection in the eyelid. The bacteria responsible for the infection can be either staphylococcus or streptococcus. These bacteria are normally present on the skin, and an infection can occur when they enter the eyelid through tiny openings, such as the eyelash follicles or oil glands. Certain factors that can increase the risk of developing a stye include:
- Poor hygiene
- Touching the eyes with dirty hands
- A weakened immune system
- Hormonal changes
- Eye makeup that is old or contaminated
- Wearing contact lenses that are not properly cleaned or stored
How to Treat a Stye?
Apply Warm Compress to the Affected Eye
Applying a warm compress can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with a stye. Simply soak a clean cloth or cotton pad in warm water and hold it against the affected eye for about 10-15 minutes. Repeat this several times a day as needed. The heat from the compress can help increase circulation to the area and promote healing.
Keep the Affected Eye Clean
Keeping the affected eye clean is an important part of stye treatment. Use a gentle cleanser, such as baby shampoo, to clean the area around the eye. Avoid touching the affected area with dirty hands and avoid sharing towels or washcloths with others.
Use Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications
OTC medications can help relieve symptoms associated with a stye. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation. Over-the-counter antihistamines can also help reduce itching and swelling around the eyes.
Do Not Pop or Squeeze the Stye
Attempting to pop or squeeze a stye can cause the infection to spread and can lead to more serious complications. It is best to let the stye heal on its own, without interference.
Antibiotic Ointments or Drops
If the stye is not resolving on its own, or is causing significant discomfort, antibiotic ointments or drops may be necessary. These medications are often prescribed by a doctor and can help to clear up the infection and reduce inflammation. Be aware that some people may experience allergic reactions to these medications, so be sure to discuss any allergies with your healthcare provider before starting treatment.
What are the Complications of a Stye?
In rare cases, styes can lead to more serious complications such as:
- Cellulitis- a skin infection that can spread to other parts of the body
- Preseptal cellulitis- an infection of the tissue in front of the eye
- Orbital cellulitis- an infection of the tissue behind the eye
- Skin abscess- a pocket of pus that forms in the skin
When to Seek Medical Help for a Stye?
Most styes can be treated at home with warm compresses and good hygiene practices. However, there are certain circumstances where medical attention may be required. These include:
- Severe pain or discomfort
- A stye that is not resolving on its own after several days
- Redness or swelling that is spreading to other areas of the face
- Pus or discharge coming from the affected eye
- Fever or chills
How to Prevent a Stye?
There are several things you can do to help prevent styes from developing, including:
- Washing your hands frequently
- Avoiding touching your eyes with dirty hands
- Keeping your contact lenses clean and stored properly
- Replacing your eye makeup regularly
- Avoiding sharing towels or washcloths with others
- Using a warm compress on your eyes regularly to promote good eyelid hygiene
A stye is a common, non-contagious bacterial infection of the eyelid that can be quite uncomfortable. Treatment typically involves warm compresses and good hygiene practices, but in some cases, antibiotic ointments or drops may be necessary. It is important to seek medical attention if the stye is not resolving or if there are signs of more serious complications. By practicing good hygiene habits, you can help prevent styes from developing in the first place.
FAQs About Styes
Q: Can styes be contagious?
A: No, styes are not contagious. They are caused by bacteria that are present on the skin.
Q: How long does a stye last?
A: Most styes resolve on their own within a week, but some can last longer.
Q: Can styes be prevented?
A: Yes, practicing good hygiene habits can help prevent styes from developing.
Q: Can styes cause eye damage?
A: In most cases, styes are not serious and do not cause eye damage. However, in rare cases, they can lead to more serious complications such as cellulitis or abscesses.
Mayo Clinic. (2021). Stye. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stye/symptoms-causes/syc-20378028
American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2019). Styes. Retrieved from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/styes-eyelid-bumps-cause-treatment
NHS. (2020). Styes. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stye/