How to Avoid Getting a Stye

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A stye (hordeolum) can develop on the eyelid when an eyelash follicle or a gland becomes clogged with oil or dirt. A stye looks like a small red pimple, usually with a yellowish surface. Styes can be painful and annoying, causing the eye to redden and tear excessively.

Woman washing her eyes
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The tell-tale symptom of a stye includes redness and swelling of the eyelid at the base of the eyelash as the infection causes a pocket of pus to form within the follicle. Tenderness and pain are also common, particularly when blinking the eye.

The life cycle of a stye is about one week; it takes about that long for the pain and inflammation in the eyelid to dissipate.

If you are prone to developing styes, the following tips may help you avoid them.

Relax

Styes often develop in times of stress. When stressed, our bodies excrete certain chemicals and hormones (like cortisol) that may play a role in the development of a stye.

Because stress is unavoidable in life, it is helpful to find ways to reduce or prevent stressful incidents or decrease negative reactions to stress. If you anticipate stress, explore relaxation exercises and mind-body therapies like:

Daily Eye Hygiene

Clogged pores that line the eyelid can become infected and trigger the development of a stye. To maintain optimal eye hygiene:

  • Take time each to properly clean your face, gently washing your eyelids to remove excess debris.
  • Remove makeup. Residue from cosmetics can easily clog the pores of the eyelids.
  • Never fall asleep without removing your eye makeup.
  • Clean the eyelid margin (the area between the eyelashes and inner eyelid) with a cotton swab or other applicator, avoiding contact with the eye.

Eyelid Washes

If you are prone to blepharitis—an inflammatory condition often caused by a Staphylococcal infection or Demodex (eyelash mites)—you should embark on a weekly or even daily regimen of eyelid washing.

Pre-packaged and pre-medicated eyelid wipes are available that contain gentle antiseptics to keep the eyelid clean. Tear-free baby shampoo is less expensive and can also help

Among some of the recommended commercial preparations:

  • Avenova is a daily eyelid and eyelash hygiene system that contains 0.01% hypochlorous acid, a naturally occurring chemical released by white blood cells that help destroy infectious microorganisms. 
  • HypoChlor Spray and Gel contain 0.02% hypochlorous acid and may be effective in disinfecting the eyelid margin if you are prone to styes.
  • Ocusoft Eyelid Scrubs contain a surfactant formulation that dissolves eyelid oils, preventing the blockage of pores.
  • Cliradex is a natural, preservative-free eyelid and eyelash cleanser that contains Melaleuca altenifolia, a type of tea tree oil. Available as a wipe, it is effective against blepharitis but can also be used to clean the face after makeup removal.

Warm Compresses

Right before bedtime, apply a warm compress or washcloth soaked in very warm water to your eyes for five to 10 minutes. This can help loosen and remove some of the sebum (oil) that can block a pore and cause a stye.

Warm compresses can also be used to treat styes. Styes respond rapidly to heat, particularly when a topical erythromycin ointment is applied afterward.

There are some commercially available compresses made specifically for the eye that can be heated in the microwave. Extreme care should be taken when using these products to avoid burns and injury to the eyelid and eye.

A Word From Verywell

It is common for styes to recur. If you have a tendency to recurrence, it is essential to keep the skin on your eyelids clean. Good hygiene goes a long way toward preventing unwanted styes and other eye-related issues.

To reduce the risk of recurrence, your doctor may want to prescribe an antibiotic ointment in addition to pre-moistened eyelid cleaning pads.

If you do develop a stye, don't despair. Most styes go away on their own, and it won't be long before your eye feels normal again. 

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Article Sources
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  2. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Styes and chalazia (inflammation of the eyelid): Overview. In: InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Updated December 5, 2019.

  3. Benitez-del-Castillo JM. How to promote and preserve eyelid health. Clin Ophthalmol. 2012;6:1689–98. doi:10.2147/OPTH.S33133

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Sty (stye): Prevention. Updated December 26, 2017.