A stye is a tender bump that forms on your eyelid.
Although most styes go away on their own within 1-2 weeks, sometimes you want the uncomfortable, painful bump to disappear sooner.
While a stye will usually take time to resolve on its own, home remedies may encourage a stye to drain and speed up recovery time.
But don’t trust just any blog or Tiktok video.
Trying to pop a stye can make the infection worse or cause it to spread.
Instead, read on to learn what a stye is, what causes it, and both home remedies and medical treatments for a stye.
I’ll also explain how to prevent this condition and when to see a doctor or health care professional about a stye.
What Is a Stye
A stye is a red, painful lump on the edge of the eyelid.
It forms when bacteria enter a clogged oil gland or hair follicle and grow, causing an infection.
In medical terms, a stye is called a hordeolum.
There are two kinds of styes: external and internal.
An external stye (external hordeolum) is visible because it occurs when a gland at the base of an eyelash becomes infected.
This is the most common type of stye.
An internal stye (internal hordeolum) is an infection of the oil glands that keep the eyeball moist.
This type of stye isn’t always visible because it triggers inflammation on the inside of the eyelid.
What Causes a Stye?
Styes develop when a hair follicle or eyelid oil gland becomes blocked or clogged, and then bacteria invade and infect the area.
Dirt, debris, old makeup, or dead skin cells can clog hair follicles and eyelid glands.
For this reason, people with poor eyelid hygiene, who wear contact lenses incorrectly, or who share towels or cosmetic products have a higher risk of developing styes.
Most styes are caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which naturally lives on the skin and inside the nose.
Under normal circumstances, this bacteria is harmless.
But when it gets inside a clogged eyelash follicle or gland, it can cause inflammation of the eyelids and, eventually, a stye.
Will a Stye Go Away on Its Own?
Styes may be uncomfortable and unsightly, but most heal on their own or with the help of simple home treatments.
If a stye doesn’t improve after about two weeks of at-home care or if a stye worsens, contact a healthcare provider.
How to Treat a Stye at Home
Although most styes heal without intervention, some home remedies may help reduce swelling, manage pain, and encourage the healing process.
Whatever you do, never pop, squeeze, or try to rupture a stye.
Doing so can cause the infection to worsen or spread. Also try to avoid wearing contact lenses or makeup when you have a stye.
Use a warm compress
The heat and moisture of a warm compress encourage a stye to drain.
To start, soak a clean washcloth in warm water, then squeeze out any excess water.
Place this warm washcloth over the affected eye for 10-15 minutes at a time.
Do this up to 3-5 times a day.
Gently cleaning the eyelids may help remove blockages and excess eye discharge.
Dilute tear-free baby shampoo with water and gently massage it on the surface of the stye.
Rinse and dry with a clean cloth.
Medical Treatments for a Stye
If a stye lasts for more than two weeks or worsens, contact a healthcare provider so they can examine it.
If they determine it is a stye, they may suggest one or more of the following medical treatments.
Two types of antibiotics help treat styes:
- Antibiotic eye ointment: Topical antibiotic cream applied directly to the eyelid helps fight the bacterial infection. This is the primary treatment.
- Oral antibiotics: Antibiotic pills or tablets can help stop the bacteria from spreading to other parts of the body. Oral antibiotics are almost never needed for a stye unless there is another associated infection.
A steroid injection can help reduce the inflammation and pain of a stye.
An ophthalmologist or other specialist injects steroid medicine into the center of the stye to reduce inflammation.
A stye that doesn’t resolve with other treatment may require minor, in-office surgery.
For this, the healthcare provider first numbs the eyelid with a local anesthetic.
Then they make a small incision to allow the stye to drain and heal.
This is typically only performed in severe cases by an ophthalmologist or oculoplastic surgery specialist.
The best way to reduce the risk of styes is to practice good hygiene:
- Refrain from touching your face or rubbing your eyes without first washing your hands.
- Wash your face and eyelids before bed, making sure to fully remove any makeup.
- Replace makeup products every 2-3 months, especially eye makeup.
- Wash your hands well before handling contact lenses. Also disinfect the lenses and replace them per your eye doctor’s directions.
When to See a Doctor
Most styes heal on their own or with the help of home remedies in about 1-2 weeks.
If a stye lasts longer or appears to worsen, see your doctor or health care provider.
They can examine your eye, make an accurate diagnosis, and recommend medical and home treatments.
Other symptoms that require medical intervention include:
- Severely swollen eyelids
- Blisters or open sores on your eyelids
- Eyelids that are hot to the touch
- Vision changes
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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.
Hordeolum (Stye). (n.d.).
Styes and Chalazia (Inflammation of the Eyelid): Overview. (2019).
What Are Styes and Chalazia? (2021).
What Causes a Stye and the Best Ways to Get Rid of One Featuring Singh. (2020).