Styes: They’re painful and irritating.
If you’ve ever had a stye, you know what we’re talking about.
But if you know anything about styes, you also know that you shouldn’t pop them—you’ve got to ride it out and let them heal on their own.
But, the good news is, there are ways to aid the healing process and keep your pain in check.
That’s why it’s important to know what a stye is and what causes them, as well as the best home remedies for dealing with one when they pop up.
However, sometimes home remedies may not do the trick, so it’s crucial to know how a medical professional can help if your stye won’t go away, or keeps coming back.
What is a Stye?
A stye (also known as a hordeolum) is a small, red bump along the eyelash line or underneath the eyelid, caused by a blocked eyelid gland that gets inflamed or infected.
Styes often resemble pimples, as they can have white heads caused by pus, but unlike zits, they should never be popped.
Symptoms of a stye include pain and swelling of the eyelid, a small, tender lump on the eyelid, and tearing.
While there’s no quick way to get rid of a stye, they do typically go away on their own after about a week.
What Causes a Stye?
A stye forms when an oil gland in your eyelid gets clogged and bacteria (specifically Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterium on the skin) begins to grow inside the gland, infecting it.
Improper hygiene, old makeup, dirty contact lenses, skin conditions (like blepharitis and dandruff), and medical conditions (like diabetes and high lipid levels) can all increase your risk of styes.
Home Remedies for a Stye
In most cases, styes will go away on their own when properly cared for at home.
Below are some cheap, easy, and effective remedies.
Use a warm compress
Warm compresses are the gold standard for home treatment of styes, because they can help the stye drain on its own without causing any damage, speeding up the healing process.
Experts suggest creating a warm compress by either microwaving a wet towel or dipping a towel in hot water and wringing it out, then placing the towel on the eyelid for five to 10 minutes, four to five times a day.
Frequently clean the area
Keeping the eyelid clean is key to helping a stye heal, ensuring it doesn’t get further irritated or infected.
You can do this using an over-the-counter lid wash, or simply use baby shampoo or a mild natural soap which won’t irritate the eyes.
However try not to aggressively rub or scrub the stye or eyelid– wash gently to avoid more irritation.
It’s best to avoid putting makeup on or near your eyes until your stye disappears, even if it is tempting to cover up the redness.
Makeup can actually delay the healing process of your stye and even worsen the infection, making it even more uncomfortable and painful.
Take out contact lenses
Break out those backup glasses!
Contact lenses can rub against and irritate your stye, so they should be avoided until the stye has completely healed.
Try over-the-counter pain medication
Because styes can be uncomfortable and painful, an over-the-counter pain reliever can be beneficial.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help with pain. Ibuprofen (Advil; Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve) may help with both pain and swelling.
Lightly massage the area
While you should generally try to avoid touching a stye in any way, lightly massaging the eyelid around the bump can help make the stye rupture quicker, by helping move things around in the clogged oil glands.
This is most effective after using a warm compress.
It is essential that you are very gentle when massaging the area, as you do not want to pop or puncture the stye, as this can make the infection worse, cause the infection to spread, and cause scarring.
Avoid Popping and Picking at Styes
Repeat after us: Do not pick, poke, prod, or pop your stye! Popping a stye can make the infection worse, as well as cause it to spread to other parts of your eyelid and even the eye itself.
When you pop a stye you are also opening it up to be exposed to other bacteria and contaminants, and the small wound you create can leave a pigmented scar, hardened scar tissue, or a pitting (holelike) scar.
Trust us, it’s best to let it rupture on its own.
Medical Treatments for a Stye
There are several medical treatments to help heal stubborn styes.
The most common treatment providers recommend is an antibiotic ointment formulated for eyes.
Oral antibiotics are rarely used for styes and unlikely to help, but may be needed if your stye is accompanied by another infection.
A specialist like an ophthalmologist can perform a steroid injection into the stye to reduce swelling in severe cases.
For styes that do not respond to these treatments, an eye specialist may perform a minor procedure in order to drain the stye.
This is typically done in-office, under local anesthesia.
When to see a doctor
Most styes will go away without needing to see a doctor, but, as always, there are a few cases where it’s best to get the advice of a medical expert.
You should go see a doctor if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Eyelid is swollen shut
- Vision is changing or is impacted by the bump
- Pus or blood begins leaking from the bump
- Eyelid is feeling worse or more swollen after two or three days
- Eyelid feels hot or is red
- Extreme sensitivity to light, or are tearing very easily
- Bump becomes very large and painful, or blisters form
- Stye keeps returning after successful treatment
If you are experiencing recurring styes, a doctor may also have a biopsy done in order to rule out other, potentially more serious, conditions of the eye.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Surgery for Stye. (n.d.)
What Are Styes and Chalazia? (2021.)
Styes — How to Treat Them, How to Avoid Them. (2021.)
Home Treatment for Stye. (n.d.)
Eyelid bump. (n.d.)