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A stye - or sty - is a common bacterial infection that produces a pimple-like boil on the eyelid or near the edge of the eye. A stye is caused by the staphylococcus bacteria, which infects the oil-producing glands in the eyelid that lubricate the eye.
- A red, painful bump on the eyelid that looks like a pimple or boil
- Tenderness of the whole eye area
- Swelling of the eyelid
- Crusting near the eyelashes
- Light sensitivity
A chalazion - clogged pores in the eyelid - may cause similar swelling, but rarely produces the coloration and pain that a stye does. A chalazion commonly occurs on the inside of the eyelid, where styes usually appear on the outer skin of the eyelid.
Styes can be prevented with good hygiene and self-care methods such as:
- Wash your hands, especially before touching your eyes
- Wash your face before bed
- Wash off eye makeup before bed
- Wash your hands before and after removing contact lenses. Disinfect multi-use contact lenses before wearing them again, and discard limited use contact lenses after taking them out.
- Throw away old or expired eye makeup
- Do not share eye makeup
Styes are very common and usually go away within a few days. The infection rarely causes any serious medical condition aside from swelling and pain in the affected eye. However, if redness and swelling begin to spread to the rest of your face, talk to a health care provider right away.
Below is a list of common treatment options for a stye. During your appointment, talk to your provider about the treatment plan that’s right for you.
Most styes will go away within a few days with a few simple self-care methods. These include:
- Warm compresses: Apply a warm, clean washcloth to the infected eye for 10-15 minutes, 3-5 times a day. While you can rewarm the cloth with water every few minutes, it is recommended that you use a clean towel for every new compress.
- Clean the eyelid: Using a gentle, fragrance-free soap and warm water to clean the infected eyelid and clear away any drainage around the eye.
- Do not touch the stye: With the exception of cleaning and compressing the eye, do not touch the stye. Squeezing, rubbing, or trying to pop the stye can make the infection worse.
- Avoid contact lenses: Contact lenses can carry bacteria and may inflame the eye further. Avoid wearing contact lenses while dealing with a stye.
- Avoid wearing makeup: Eye makeup can clog the pores around the eye. Do not apply makeup to cover up the affected eye, or wear any eye makeup while dealing with a stye.
If a stye has not improved within 48 hours, contact your health care provider. They may be able to prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic medication to kill the bacteria causing the infection or release the fluid in the eye with a simple draining procedure. Do not attempt to do this yourself. Your doctor will apply local anesthesia to numb the area, and then create a small incision in the eyelid to let the pus out.