A stye is a painful bump around the edge of the eyelid that closely resembles a boil or a pimple. This is a localized infection or inflammation of the edges of the eyelid involving hair follicles around the eyelashes. These are often filled with pus but will begin to disappear on its own after a couple of days.
Although it mostly occurs outside the eyelid, it can sometimes form in the inner eyelid which can be both painful and could cause discomfort.
Symptoms of a stye may include:
- eyelid pain
- red, tender lump on the eyelid
- eyelid swelling
Another condition that could cause inflammation of the eyelid is a chalazion. It looks similar to a stye but differs in its cause. A chalazion is caused by a blockage in the oil glands near the eyelashes and is often painless and more prominent in the inner part of the eyelid. A stye or hordeolum on the other hand is caused by an infection. Treatment for both conditions is similar.
A stye is caused by a bacterial infection that irritates the oil glands in the eyelid. The bacterium staphylococcus bacteria is most commonly responsible for these infections.
People at increased risk of developing a stye are the ones who often do the following:
- Touching the eyes with dirty hands
- Inserting contact lenses without thorough disinfection and proper handwashing
- Not removing eye makeup at night
- Using old or expired eye cosmetics
- Have blepharitis
- Have rosacea
To prevent stye and other eye infections:
- Wash hands regularly. Wash hands with warm water and soap or use alcohol-based sanitizers frequently. Avoid touching the eyes with dirty hands.
- Be careful of eye cosmetics. Throw away old cosmetics and remove eye makeup before going to sleep.
- Clean contact lenses thoroughly. Wash hands thoroughly before handling contacts and follow proper disinfecting guidelines.
- Apply warm compresses. Warm compresses help prevent styes from coming back.
- Manage blepharitis. If you have blepharitis, you must follow your doctor’s instructions concerning eye care.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Styes are commonly harmless and do not affect ability to see normally. Home remedies such as applying warm compresses on closed eyelids for at least 5-10 minutes several times a day while gently massaging the eyelid often alleviates discomfort and helps speed up the healing process. Consult your doctor immediately if:
- The sty does not improve within 48 hours
- Redness and swelling occurs in the entire eyelid or extends into other parts of the face such as the cheeks