What You Need to Know About Your Stye

Medically Reviewed By Grace Zhang, MD
Was this helpful?
18

A stye is a raised bump of flushed skin that may appear along the edge of your eyelid or under your eyelid. Styes resemble pimples and can be painful. A stye is the result of an inflamed, clogged oil gland. It will usually resolve itself within 1 week. However, if the stye causes irritation or does not go away with home treatments, contact your doctor for medical treatment.

Home treatments include a warm compress and proper eye hygiene.

Read on to find out more about why styes occur, how to treat your stye at home, and when to seek medical treatment.

What is a stye?

A stye happen when a gland in your eyelid becomes clogged and an acute infection develops. In most cases, the infection is bacterial. The infection often does not come from another person but instead comes from bacteria from our own skin, much like acne.

The medical name for a stye is “hordeolum.” Styes are common, especially in children. Anyone can get a stye, but certain conditions make you more prone to developing them. These include rosacea and blepharitis. Blepharitis is inflammation at the base of the eyelashes.

A stye is usually a minor medical problem that you can manage with home remedies. It often takes around a week for a stye to clear up without treatment. However, it may take longer if complications develop.

Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

Vs. chalazion

A very similar condition to a stye is a chalazion. Both conditions look alike. However, a chalazion does not occur due to an infection. A chalazion may be a result of stress, fatigue, or blepharitis.

A stye forms closer to the eyeball than a chalazion and usually occurs on the inside of the eyelid. A chalazion forms anywhere on the eyelid. Unlike a stye, a chalazion can be painless.

What are the different types of styes?

There are two main types of styes: 

  • External hordeolum: This stye develops at the base of your eyelashes due to an infection in a hair follicle. This is the most common type of stye. 
  • Internal hordeolum: This stye develops inside your eyelid due to an infection in an oil-producing gland. 

In addition, if you have blepharitis, which is inflammation of the eyelids, you could develop a stye. 

What are the symptoms of a stye?

A stye is a flushed, painful lump or bump on the eyelid edge or under the eyelid that can cause a portion of the eyelid to swell. It often has a pus spot in the center that makes it look like a pimple. 

Other common symptoms of styes include:

  • crustiness along the eyelashes or discharge from the eye
  • itchy eye or feeling like something is in the eye
  • sensitivity to light
  • watery eyes due to irritation

Styes are usually not serious and go away on their own in a week. Contact your doctor for a stye that persists for more than a week despite home remedies. Also contact a health professional if the symptoms affect areas other than your eyelid.

Learn more about itchy eyelids here.

What does a stye look like?

Close,Up,Of,Upper,Eyelid,Abscess,(stye,,Hordeolum),During,Eye

Stye

A stye is a red bump located on the edge of your eyelid.

ARZTSAMUI/Shutterstock

shutterstock-1281923179-slide-1.jpg

Stye

A stye is a red bump located onMost styes are benign and will resolve on their own. However, some can be painful and become infected. These require antibiotics. the edge of your eyelid.

ARZTSAMUI/Shutterstock

Stye (hordeolum) disease on eye of a caucasian female

Stye

Styes form when oil glands become blocked or infected.

rob_lan/Getty Images

What causes a stye?

Styes occur due to a bacterial infection, usually by a Staphylococcus bacterium. 

A hair follicle or an oil gland becomes clogged with dead skin cells, old oil, or other debris. The blocked follicle or gland allows an infection to develop from bacteria that are normally present on the skin. This causes a stye to form.

What are the risk factors for a stye?

Anyone can get a stye, but certain factors increase the risk of developing them. For example, they are very common in children. Other risk factors for a stye include:

  • having a skin condition such as rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis
  • having blepharitis, an eyelid condition wherein caked debris causes inflammation along the base of the eyelashes
  • having diabetes
  • having had styes or chalazia in the past
  • disinfecting contact lenses improperly
  • inserting or removing contact lenses with unclean hands
  • touching your eyes
  • using old eye makeup or not removing eye makeup at night

Reducing your risk of styes

Focus on good hygiene to prevent styes. You may be able to lower your risk of getting a stye by:

  • disinfecting contact lenses properly
  • keeping your eyes clean by regularly removing makeup, dirt, and sleep discharge
  • declining to share eye makeup
  • replacing old eye makeup regularly
  • washing your hands before touching your eyes or inserting or removing contact lenses
  • performing routine lid scrubs if you already have blepharitis or chronic staph lid disease

Contact your doctor if you have styes that keep coming back despite good eye hygiene.

How do doctors diagnose a stye? 

Your doctor will examine your eye and may ask you several questions related to your stye, including:

  • How long have you had the stye?
  • Are you experiencing any other symptoms?
  • Is your vision affected? If so, how?

Most often, your doctor can diagnose a stye during an exam and does not need to perform diagnostic tests. 

Learn more about when to contact a doctor for styes here.

What are the treatments for a stye? 

Styes will usually resolve on their own without treatment within a week.

You can usually treat styes at home with some simple steps, including:

  • applying a washcloth soaked in warm water to your eye for 15 minutes and repeating several times a day
  • gently massaging the area with the warm washcloth or a clean finger
  • washing the area with diluted baby shampoo
  • keeping your eye clean and avoiding wearing makeup until the stye is gone
  • wearing glasses instead of contacts until the stye heals

You should avoid touching or rubbing your eye while the stye heals. Also, never squeeze or try to pop a stye. This can make the infection spread.

Medical treatment

If your stye does not improve within a couple of days, contact your doctor.

You might need antibiotic eye drops or an antibiotic cream to clear the infection. In rare cases, doctors may also recommend oral antibiotics.

Sometimes, doctors will refer you to an ophthalmologist to drain the stye by making a small cut.

Learn how to choose the right ophthalmologist for you here.

What are the potential complications of a stye?

The most common complications of a stye are cosmetic or visual. Sometimes, styes can lead to infections in the wider body. When a stye infection is severe, it can lead to preseptal cellulitis, which is an infection surrounding the eye.

Styes may come back if you do not maintain proper hygiene.

However, styes are usually minor problems that go away without complications. Contact your doctor if styes keep coming back or if a stye is particularly large and causing irritation.

It may be necessary to take a small biopsy, or tissue sample, to check for other causes of the problem if the stye has an unusual appearance. Also contact a doctor if there are signs the infection is spreading, including:

Visit our hub on eye health here.

Summary

A stye occurs due to a clogged, inflamed oil gland. It usually affects the inner eyelid, whereas a chalazion affects the skin around the eyelid.

Styes may resemble a pimple, with flushed skin and a white point.

Styes usually resolve on their own within a week and only cause minor cosmetic and visual problems. However, if the stye is causing irritation or seems particularly large, contact your doctor. Proper treatment and good hygiene can prevent infection and recurrence of the stye.

Was this helpful?
18
Medical Reviewer: Grace Zhang, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Feb 24
View All Eye Health Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.