What Is a Stye Inside the Eyelid?

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A stye is a small red bump on the base of your eyelashes or under your eyelid. It is also called a hordeolum and sometimes spelled as sty. They are usually harmless, but can be painful and may lead to complications, such as a harmful infection.

A stye can develop externally or internally. External styes are usually caused by an infection of an eyelash hair follicle. Internal styes grow inside the eyelid and are usually caused by an infection of the oil glands.

Here is more information about the symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention of styes.

Stye inside eyelid

Maryviolet / iStock / Getty Images

Symptoms

In addition to a painful bump, a stye can cause other symptoms, including:

  • Crusting on the eyelid
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Eye tearing
  • Feeling as if something is in your eye
  • Having a sore or scratchy eye
  • Sensitivity to light

Causes and Risk Factors

The most common cause of an internal stye is a bacterial infection, usually Staphylococcus aureus. The infection begins in the Meibomian gland, an oil gland on the edge of the eyelid. These glands provide lubrication to the eye surface.

Risk factors that could make you more prone to getting a stye include:

  • Having blepharitis—inflammation of the eyelids.
  • A history of a previous stye
  • Dry skin
  • Underlying conditions, including diabetes, rosacea, or seborrheic dermatitis
  • High levels of LDL cholesterol, also called "bad" cholesterol
  • Hormonal changes
  • Inadequate eyelid hygiene
  • Using old or contaminated eye makeup
  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Wearing eye makeup overnight

When to See an Eye Doctor for a Stye

Although many styes go away on their own, the symptoms of a stye are similar to many other eye conditions. That is why you should see an eye doctor if you have symptoms of a stye.


You should see an eye doctor promptly if:

  • Your eyelid is red, hot, or swelling
  • Your eyelid is painful
  • You feel like something is in your eye
  • The stye is not getting better after two days of trying home remedies
  • You notice a change in your vision

Diagnosis

Eye doctors usually diagnose a stye by observing the eyelid. Special tests are not usually necessary.

Complications

Usually, an enlarging stye can become cosmetically unpleasing, but it is not usually harmful.

One complication that can occur with an untreated internal stye is a chalazion. A chalazion is a swollen bump that is located on the eyelid. Initially, it may not hurt, but it can become red, swollen, and tender. If the chalazion becomes too big, it can press on the eye and cause you to have blurry vision.

Another possible complication is having recurring styes. If you have styes that continue to recur, your healthcare provider may want to perform a biopsy to further analyze the cause. For instance, a rare type of eye cancer called sebaceous carcinoma is a type of eyelid tumor that can cause growths that resemble styes.

Treatment

There are several treatments for a stye, ranging from home remedies to medical and surgical treatments.

When you have a stye, do not wear eye makeup or use contact lenses until it resolves.

Warning

Do not ever squeeze or pop a stye.

Self Care

Home remedies and self care include:

  • A warm compress: Place a clean, moist, hot washcloth over your eyelids for 10 to 15 minutes, three to five times a day. Reheat the washcloth as needed if it loses its heat.
  • Gently massage the area around the stye: This can help loosen clogged oil glands. Again, remember not to touch or squeeze the stye itself.
  • Wipe away drainage: If you have any drainage from the eye, use a baby shampoo or eyelid wipes to remove it.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: These can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with the stye.

Medical Treatment

Medical treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics: A healthcare provider may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics if you have a stye that is infected.
  • Steroid injection into the stye: This may be used to lessen the swelling, especially if a chalazion forms.
  • Drainage of the stye: An eye doctor would do a procedure if the stye does not go away and if it affects your vision. It is usually done in a healthcare provider's office using local anesthesia.

Prevention

You can do a few things to help prevent styes:

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before touching your eye
  • Wah your hands before removing or placing contact lenses
  • Wash your face and the area around your eyes
  • Clean your contacts as recommended after every use
  • Follow any manufacturer or eye doctor recommendations on how often to dispose of your contact lenses
  • Get rid of old or expired makeup
  • Don't share your makeup with others or use someone else's makeup
  • Continue warm compress and gentle lid message after your stye resolves
  • See your healthcare provider if you develop discomfort of your eye

Coping

A stye can be annoying and may make you feel self-conscious. However, they are common and often will go away on their own with time. If not, see an eye doctor for help. If you have had a stye in the past, you can take some steps going forward to help prevent another stye from developing.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take a stye to heal?

    Styes tend to open up and drain within two to four days of forming. Most completely heal after a week.However, internal styes sometimes do not spontaneously rupture, in which case they may develop into a chalazion.

  • Can stress cause styes?

    No, a style is caused by an infection. However, stress may increase the risk of developing a stye, likely because it weakens the immune system and increases susceptibility to infection.Lack of sleep can have the same effect.

  • What bacteria cause internal styes?

    Between 90% and 95% of styes are caused by infection with Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus epidermidis is largely responsible for the rest.

  • How are antibiotics used to treat styes?

    For styes that don't go away on their own, an opthalmologist may prescribe a topical antibiotic such as erythromycin or bacitracin in the form of drops or ointment to speed healing.

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11 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.
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