|A stye is typically harmless, resulting from a bacterial infection and forming at the base of an eyelash, or on or inside the eyelid.
A stye, medically known as a hordeolum, is a small lump that appears on, inside or under the eyelid or on eyelashes. Styes typically result from a staphylococcal bacteria infection or from a clogging of the oil glands around the eyelashes or inside the eyelid, but can be triggered during times of stress. They are usually harmless, despite their appearance – causing redness, tenderness, pain and sometimes light-sensitivity and eye-watering.
Styes are often confused with
chalazion, which are cysts that forms on or inside the eyelids as a result of a blockage of one or more of
meibomian glands. However, a chalazion is not an infection and is usually painless, but may attract bacteria and lead to an infection. Styes that appear on the eyelid are usually deeper, more painful and last longer than those appearing on the eyelash.
Redness, tenderness and pain are usually the first symptoms of a stye (though eyelash styes are less painful and heal with less effort than eyelid styes). These are followed by:
- Swelling in a small area or the entire eyelid
- The affected eye may water, feel irritated or be sensitive to light
- Discomfort when blinking
- A small yellowish spot (pointing) in the center of a sty, which occurs when pus collects and expands. Pain is usually is relieved when the sty ruptures, draining the pus.
Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your eyes to the spread of bacteria. Avoid sharing eye makeup, especially if you’re prone to recurring styes.
While an eyelash stye will usually drain on its own in approximately 2 days, a warm compress can speeding healing. Apply a washcloth on the affected eye for 10 minutes, four times per day, to release the fluids that have built up inside the stye. Do not squeeze the stye. Antibiotic ointment, or an antibiotic-steroid combination, can be used until symptoms have cleared.
If the eyelash stye lasts more than 3 days or the infection appears to be spreading, consult your eye doctor. You may have a chalazion or another condition that may require further examination.
Eyelid styes are more stubborn and usually require treatment by a physician. They may need to be lanced under sterile conditions. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed if the stye is very large, abscessed or not responding to other treatment.
Contact lenses should not be worn during infection or drainage of a stye. Your eyecare provider may recommend replacing your contact lenses after the stye has healed to prevent recurrence or spread of the infection.