Treatment and Symptoms of a Stye on the Eyelid

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You begin to notice a bit of pain or a feeling of heaviness in your eyelid each time you blink. You look into the mirror and you barely see a tiny red spot on the base of your lower lashes. If you've ever had a stye, you probably know these symptoms as the beginning of a miserable eye stye.

Although the appearance of a stye can be unsightly at times, it is usually harmless. A stye is a small bump that sometimes appears on the outside or inside of the eyelid. A stye is also referred to as a hordeolum. A stye develops from an eyelash follicle or an eyelid oil gland that becomes clogged from excess oil, debris, or bacteria. Styes can be a complication of blepharitis but also seem to be brought on by stress.


If you have a stye, you may be suffering from watery eyes, pain, tenderness, itching, or redness. Your eye may feel bruised and sensitive to light. You may notice your blinking rhythm, as each blink feels a little different than usual. You may also notice a reddish bump on your eyelid. If your stye is severe, you may develop an internal hordeolum. Pus will build up in the center of the stye causing a yellowish spot that looks similar to a pimple. If the stye is painful, it will feel better once it ruptures and the pus drains.


Clogged eyelid glands seem to be one cause of styes. If you suffer from chronic blepharitis or meibomian gland dysfunction, bacteria may often build up and infect the glands, making you prone to developing styes. Meibomian gland dysfunction can also cause poor tear film quality.

Eye makeup sometimes causes styes, especially if you share makeup with others. Also, wearing too much eye makeup can sometimes cause a stye to develop, which is why removing all makeup before bed is key to avoiding a stye. Some people notice the development of a stye during times of stress.


Styes tend to linger longer than most people would like. The following steps might speed up healing time for you.

Tips for treating a stye
Verywell/Cindy Chung
  • Warm compress: Lightly press a clean, warm washcloth against your eyelid for 10 minutes. Try to do this at least 4 times a day.
  • Massage: Gently massage the affected area with the tips of your fingers, being careful not to poke yourself in the eye.
  • Apply eye drops: Medicated eye drops or antibiotic ointments may help cure the infection. Your eye doctor will be able to tell which is best in your situation. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
  • Eye lid scrubs: Eyelid scrubs are commercially prepared medicated shampoo packets similar to a moist towelette. They are available in many different types. Some are more of a shampoo that decreases the number of bacteria present on the eyelid or stye. Others have a natural chemical called hypochlorous acid. Different preparations have a component of tea tree oil called melaleuca altenifolia. The active ingredient is 4-Terpineol and has been shown to treat underlying blepharitis very successfully.

See your doctor if you have a stye for longer than a week even though you are applying warm compresses.


The longer a stye hangs around, the more likely it is to turn into a chalazion. A chalazion is a blocked oil gland that has become infected. A chalazion usually causes pain and inflammation, as well as a hard lump or bump on the eyelid. Your eye doctor may suggest lancing the chalazion for draining, and possibly a steroid injection to reduce swelling.

While you may have a strong urge to squeeze or pop a stye, it's probably best to allow the stye to drain on its own. Squeezing the stye may cause a severe eye infection.

To prevent the possibility of infection, avoid wearing eye makeup or contact lenses until the stye completely heals. Styes usually go away on their own within a few days.

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Article Sources

  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What Are Chalazia and Styes?. Updated Aug. 29, 2019.

  2. Garrity, J. Chalazion and Hordeolum (Stye). Merck manual online. Updated May 2019.

Additional Reading

  • Shtein RN. Blepharitis. In: UpToDate. Libman H. (Ed) UpToDate. Updated April 26, 2018.