Everything You Need to Know About Styes

Published by Auckland Eye on Monday, 25 Feb 2019


What is a stye?

A stye, also referred to a stye is a localised infection that forms on the outside edge of the eyelid. The infection can often look like a pimple and can present itself often as a tender, red bump. A stye is usually caused by staphylococcal bacteria from your skin that gets into and irritates the glands the base of the eyelash. Although most styes are harmless, not contagious  and don't cause any vision problems, they can be irritating, causing redness, pain, swelling and tenderness.


What are the symptoms of a stye?

  • A small bump on the inside or outside of the eyelid (looks a bit like a spot).
  • Feels painful or tender, particularly when you blink.
  • Swollen, red eyelid
  • Increased tear production
  • A crust that forms around the eyelid


What causes a stye?

Styes are caused by bacteria from your skin (usually staphylococcal bacteria) that gets into and irritates the glands in the eyelids. This type of bacterium is found in the nose and is transferred easily to the eye when you rub your nose, then your eye. Also, although staphylococcal bacteria also normally exist harmlessly on the skin of the eye, it can sometimes get trapped along with dead skin cells on the edge of the eyelid.

When the eyelid glands become blocked and infected they fill up, and more bacteria can grow. It's a similar process to when pimples form on your skin. The result is a swollen, red, and painful bump that can develop over the course of a few days.


How to Treat a Stye?

While most styes usually clear up within a week, the following steps might speed up the healing time:

  • Warm Compress: Lightly press a clean, warm washcloth against your eyelid for 10 minutes. Try to do this at least 4 times a day. The goal of this therapy is to bring the stye to a head, like you see on a pimple. But whatever you do, don't try to pop a stye! The warmth from the compress often will allow the stye to open, drain and heal on its own without causing trauma to the eyelid or possibly spreading an infection by squeezing it.
  • Massage: Gently massage the affected area with the tips of your fingers, being careful not to poke yourself in the eye.
  • Keep your eyelids clean: The first thing you should do if you develop a stye is cleanse your eyelids. You can use diluted tear-free baby shampoo on a cotton ball, washcloth, or makeup remover pad. Then rinse your eyelids with warm water and gently pat them dry.

While it may be tempting to conceal a red or inflamed eye bump with makeup, we strongly discourage it. Since covering up a stye can delay the healing process, it's wise to stop wearing eye makeup temporarily when you have a stye. Also, discard old makeup or applicators that could be contaminated. If you need vision correction, it is recommended that you wear your glasses instead of contact lenses while your stye heals.

  • 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.


When to Seek Professional Help?

If your stye worsens, affects your vision or doesn't go away within a week or so, contact your GP, optometrist or eye specialist for an in-office evaluation and treatment. Your doctor might prescribe a stye ointment or other stye treatment to help the condition resolve more quickly. In some cases, stubborn styes may require surgical treatment by your doctor, followed by application of prescription medicine.


Preventing Future Styes

Proper eyelid hygiene can significantly reduce the risk of styes. Therefore, to prevent future styes remember to always wash your hands with soap and water before touching your eyes, never share eye makeup or brushes, throw out expired cosmetics and always remove eye makeup before going to bed.

If you sometimes have problems with blepharitis, taking steps to quickly treat this eyelid problem also will help prevent the occurrence of styes.

Categories: Stye

Auckland Eye - New Zealand Centre of Excellence for Eye Care