A stye is simply a bacterial infection on the inside or outside of the eyelid. When a stye occurs inside the lid, it is called an internal hordeolum. Often caused by infections in the sebaceous glands at the base of the eyelashes, styes are a common—and usually mild—occurrence.
1) What do styes look like?
Styes typically appear as tender red lumps resembling small pimples.
2) What are stye symptoms?
In addition to small lumps on the eyelid, symptoms of a stye may also include eyelid swelling, redness, tenderness, crusting around the eye, blurred vision, light sensitivity and excessive tearing.
3) How are styes treated?
Most styes will swell for a few days before breaking open and draining themselves. If you have frequent styes, your eye doctor may prescribe a topical antibiotic ointment, apply heat compresses, prescribe eye drops or an oral antibiotic, or recommend daily lid hygiene products. It’s important to refrain from wearing eye makeup and contact lenses until the area is completely healed.
You should never “pop” or forcefully rupture a stye due to the risk of spreading the bacteria further. An internal hordeolum, which can be more serious, will not always rupture on its own. Do not try to open it yourself. Consult your doctor, as he/she may need to open and drain it. Luckily, the majority of styes can be addressed with a simple combination of heat compresses and a gentle massage around the eyelid area.
4) Are styes and blepharitis related?
Styes can form when secretions from the meibomian gland do not drain properly. Unhealthy meibomian glands may also cause the condition called blepharitis, which generally means inflammation of the eyelid. You can learn more about blepharitis from All About Vision.
5) How can I prevent styes?
- Always wash your hands before touching your eyes. Try to avoid rubbing your eyes, as irritation can allow bacteria to enter.
- Replace eye makeup frequently, as bacteria can grow in your makeup products. Never share cosmetics with others, and remove your makeup before going to sleep.
- If you are prone to styes, be sure to cleanse your eyelids regularly with an appropriate lid hygiene product.
- Protect your eyes from pollution and the environment. Wear safety glasses and other eye protection if you are frequently working outside or with dust and pollen.
Immediately consult your doctor if the stye becomes painful, bleeds or reoccurs, or if you encounter a problem with your vision.
- “Styes and Chalazia Guide.” Web MD. 2016.
- Segre, Liz. Reviewed by Vance Thompson, MD. “7 Things to Know About an Eye Stye.” All About Vision. June 2015.
- Kabat, Alan. G, OD and Joseph W. Sowka, OD. “Stye vs. Stye: Tips on managing both external and internal hordeola.” Review of Optometry. March 15, 2016.