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 in the mirror and you barely see a tiny red or white 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 or a whitish area 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.

You should never try popping a stye like a pimple or try to drain it on your own, as this can lead to infection.


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. Always remove all makeup before bed, as this is key to preventing a stye. Some people notice the development of a stye during times of stress.


There are several ways to treat a stye.

Tips for treating a stye
Verywell/Cindy Chung

Warm Compress

Lightly press a clean, warm washcloth against your eyelid for 10 minutes. A beaded mask that you warm in the microwave is another option. Try to do this at least four times a day. However, the skin on the eyelid is fragile, so be very careful to test how hot something is before applying it to your eye.


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 healthcare provider will be able to tell which is best in your situation. Be sure to follow your healthcare provider's instructions.

Eyelid 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 demodex, an organism that lives on hair follicles. For a home remedy, try baby shampoo.

See your healthcare provider if you have a stye for longer than a week despite 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 causes as a hard lump or bump on the eyelid and may be painful. Your eye healthcare provider 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you get rid of a stye overnight?

    Probably not. It will likely take a few days for the stye to heal, even with treatment. However, using a warm washcloth over your eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes at a time can allow the clogged oil gland to open and drain, which may help the stye heal more quickly.

  • How long does it take for a stye to go away?

    Usually about a week. A sty may get bigger for about three to five days before it comes to a head. After that, it starts to drain and takes a few more days to completely heal.

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

  2. Garrity J. Chalazion and Hordeolum (Stye). Merck Manual Online. Updated May 2019.

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Can I use warm compresses on my stye for more than 10 minutes? Updated April 30, 2016.

  4. Seattle Children's. Sty.

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