Treatment and Symptoms of a Stye on the Eyelid

A stye is a small, painful bump on your eyelid. A stye is also called a hordeolum.

A stye develops when an eyelash follicle or an eyelid oil gland becomes clogged. Excess oil, debris, or bacteria may cause the clog.

Styes can be a complication of blepharitis (eyelid inflammation). They also seem to be brought on by stress. A stye can hurt and be ugly. But it's usually harmless otherwise.

This article will look at symptoms and causes of styes, how they're diagnosed and treated, and what complications you may face.

A stye in the eye.

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Symptoms

If you have a stye, you may notice a reddish bump or whitish area on your eyelid. You may also have symptoms such as:

Your eye may feel bruised and sensitive to light. You may be more aware of blinking, as it feels a little different than usual.

Complications

If a stye lingers, it may lead to complications, such as:

  • Internal hordeolum: Pus build-up in the stye that causes a yellowish spot and may be painful until it ruptures and the pus drains
  • Chalazion: Infection of a blocked oil gland that forms a hard, painful bump on your eyelid and results from long-lasting styes

Your eye healthcare provider may suggest lancing and draining a hordeolum or chalazion. They may also give you a steroid injection to reduce swelling.

Don't Pop It!

Never try to pop a stye like a pimple or try to drain it on your own. This can lead to infection.

Causes

Clogged eyelid glands seem to be one cause of styes. You may be prone to them if you have:

  • Chronic blepharitis: Bacterial infection of the eyelid causes persistent redness, swelling, irritation, and crusty flakes on the eyelash.
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction: Glands around the eyelids don't secrete enough oil or secrete poor-quality oil, leading to eye dryness, watering, burning, itching, and crustiness.

Eye makeup sometimes causes styes. It's more likely if you share makeup with someone else.

Some people get styes during times of stress.

Recap

Styes are painful bumps on your eyelid. They can cause light sensitivity and other eye symptoms. They can contain pus or become infected. They're caused by clogged eyelash follicles or oil glands, stress, chronic blepharitis, or meibomian gland dysfunction.

Treatment

Styes usually go away on their own within a few days. If yours doesn't, you have several treatment options.

You might have an urge to squeeze or pop a stye. Don't! That can cause a potentially severe eye infection. Instead, let the stye drain on its own.

To prevent infection, don't wear eye makeup or contact lenses until the stye is healed.

Tips for treating a stye

Verywell / Cindy Chung

Warm Compress

You can make a compress by wetting a clean washcloth with warm water. A mask containing beads that you warm in the microwave works, too.

Lightly press it against your eyelid for 10 minutes. Aim to do it at least four times a day.

The skin on your eyelid is fragile. Test how hot something is before putting it on your eye.

When to Get Medical Help

See your healthcare provider if you have a stye for longer than a week despite applying warm compresses.

Massage

Gently massage the affected area with the tips of your fingers. Always wash your hands first.

Use a light touch and be careful not to poke yourself in the eye.

Eye Drops

Medicated eye drops or antibiotic ointment may help cure an infection. Ask your eye healthcare provider which is best for you.

Be sure to follow your healthcare provider's instructions.

To prevent styes, always remove your makeup before bed.

Eyelid Scrubs

Eyelid scrubs are commercially prepared medicated shampoo packets similar to a moist towelette. They kill bacteria on the eyelid or the stye.

Some scrubs contain a natural chemical called hypochlorous acid. It's an effective antimicrobial that is gentle on the skin.

Others include melaleuca altenifolia, which comes from tea tree oil. The active ingredient, 4-terpineol, can kill Demodex face mites. Those are organisms that live in hair follicles.

Baby shampoo can also make a good home remedy.

Recap

Stye treatments include a warm compress, eyelid massage, eye drops, and eyelid scrubs.

Summary

Styes are painful white or reddish bumps that form on your eyelid. Symptoms include light sensitivity, watery eyes, itching, and redness.

Styes can build up pus or become infected. They're caused by clogged follicles or oil glands, stress, chronic eyelid inflammation, or meibomian gland dysfunction.

Most stye treatments are ones you can try at home. However, you may want to ask your healthcare provider to recommend an eye scrub.

Complications such as an internal hordeolum or chalazion are possible.

A Word From Verywell

A stye is unpleasant and you might be self-conscious over how it looks. They're usually simple to treat and get rid of, though.

With the right treatments and simple preventive measures, you can get rid of styes and keep them from coming back.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you get rid of a stye overnight?

    Probably not. It often takes a few days for the stye to heal, even with treatment. Putting a warm washcloth over your eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes at a time can allow the clogged oil gland to open and drain. That may help the stye heal more quickly.

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

    A stye usually lasts for about a week. It may get bigger for about three to five days before coming to a head. Then it starts to drain and takes a few more days to completely heal.

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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. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What are chalazia and styes? Updated August 29, 2019.

  2. Merck Manual Professional Version. Chalazion and hordeolum (stye). Updated July 2020.

  3. National Institutes of Health, National Eye Institute. Blepharitis. Updated August 31, 2020.

  4. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Meibomian gland dysfunction and treatment. Updated December 2020.

  5. Cleveland Clinic. What is hypochlorous acid? And why should you use it? Updated August 3, 2021.

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

  7. Seattle Children's. Sty.

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