Are Eye Styes Contagious?

What to Know if You Get One

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You find yourself contending with an annoying red bump on your eyelid—a stye. While you feel confident that this will go away soon, you worry about spreading this around. The good news is that this is highly unlikely.

While styes can be caused by bacteria infecting an eyelid gland or eyelash follicle, good hygiene usually keeps these at bay. Stopping these from spreading to someone else is as simple as avoiding sharing towels, pillowcases, or makeup with someone with a stye.

Such a stye, sometimes spelled sty and also known medically as a hordeolum, is a painful, red bump that can appear on either the inside or the outside of your eyelid.

A finger pointing to a stye on a woman's lid. Also, a stye on the other lid as well.

Ocskaymark / iStock / Getty Images

How Styes Spread

Styes are usually caused by the staphylococcal bacteria, which normally live harmlessly on the skin or in the nose. However, if you rub the area and then touch your eye, you can inadvertently transfer the bacteria to the lid.

Fortunately, this is usually just a local infection that does not spread to others. Rather, there is usually something about your own chemistry that is susceptible at the moment. However, you may find that these tend to recur from time to time.

If you squeeze the stye, you may cause more styes on the same lid or even on the other eye. Since the infection can spread to nearby tissues, you should frequently wash your hands. Also, if you use warm compresses for relief, they should be thrown out after use.


While styes often resolve on their own, they can also become chronic. These can eventually turn into a painless cyst known as a chalazion. These tend to form if an internal stye doesn't drain properly.

It can be difficult to tell if it's a stye or a chalazion, but if it's a hard lump inside the eyelid, it's probably a chalazion.


Probably the best way to ensure that a stye doesn't recur or you don't pass this on elsewhere is to focus on clearing this up promptly. Fortunately, there are a variety of possible treatments.

Home Remedies

While styes often go away on their own, there are also some easy remedies to try, usually found right around the house that may speed the process. You may want to try the following:

  • Apply warm compresses: Place a warm washcloth over the sty for up to 15 minutes, three to five times daily.
  • Gently massage your affected lid.
  • Rub on lid scrubs from the over-the-counter aisle of your drugstore or gently wipe the area with a no-tears option such as Johnson's Baby Shampoo.

Medical Intervention

If the stye doesn't go away on its own within a week, consult a healthcare provider. Your practitioner will likely:

  • Prescribe topical antibiotic ointment, drops, or possibly pills.
  • Inject a steroid to reduce swelling.
  • Make an incision to surgically drain the stye (an in-office procedure).
  • Remove an eyelash near the stye.

Also, to ensure the stye goes away promptly, be sure to avoid popping this on your own. For one thing, this may be a chalazion instead of a stye. Also, you may inadvertently squeeze the infection into the surrounding tissue, spreading it.

Avoid popping a stye on your own. For one thing, this may be a chalazion instead of a stye. Also, you may inadvertently squeeze the infection into the surrounding tissue, spreading it.


There's also a lot you can do to keep a stye at bay, particularly if someone else in your household has one such as your spouse or child. To keep from also getting a stye, try the following:

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes.
  • Practice good hygiene, washing your hands thoroughly before touching your face, particularly around the eyes.
  • Use clean hands and thoroughly disinfect your contact lenses before inserting these. Also, throw away any daily use lenses.
  • Dispose of old mascara, eyeliner, and shadow every couple of months since bacteria can proliferate here. Also, never share these cosmetics with anyone else, even in a pinch.
  • Remove any eye makeup before bed and keep your lids and lashes clean.
  • Use separate towels and pillowcases

With these measures, hopefully, you should be able to ensure that one family member's stye remains an isolated occurrence and also quickly resolves.

A Word From Verywell

Most styes will be localized and will go away rapidly on their own. However, if a stye seems to be lingering or spreading be sure to bring this to your healthcare provider's attention. Styes rarely get worse, but if they do they should be promptly evaluated.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Health Service. Stye. January 12, 2018.

  2. Cleveland Clinic, Sty (stye), December 26, 2017.

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Are styes in the eye contagious? March 10, 2014.

  4. Victoria State Government, Styes, June 29, 2011.

  5. Lindsley K, Nichols JJ, Dickersin K. Non-surgical interventions for acute internal hordeolum. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jan 9;1(1):CD007742. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007742.pub4

  6. Michigan Medicine University of Michigan, Styes and chalazia, December 1, 2019.

  7. American Academy of Ophthalmology, Is it Okay to Pop a Stye? March 10 2014.

By Maxine Lipner
Maxine Lipner is a long-time health and medical writer with over 30 years of experience covering ophthalmology, oncology, and general health and wellness.