A stye is an infection of one of the oil glands in your eyelid.
- A stye is when a gland in your eyes becomes blocked and infected. This causes watery eyes with red swollen eyelids.
- Styes are common and should clear up on their own in a week or two.
- It's important to not burst the stye at home as this may spread the infection.
- Treatment involves keeping your eyelids clean, treating any infection and avoiding irritants to your eye.
- See your doctor if it doesn't clear up or gets worse, or if your sight become blurred.
What causes a stye?
A stye is caused when the small glands in your eyelids, which produce oils, become blocked and infected. This causes an inflammatory reaction in the lid. It usually heals on its own within a week. Sometimes blepharitis can be present.
What are the symptoms of a stye?
A stye can cause:
- red, sore, swollen eyelids
- tender swellings in the eyelids
- watery eyes
- a lump on or inside your eyelid.
When to seek medical help
See your doctor if you have followed the steps for treatment below and:
- a stye persists or is causing distress
- your eyes become increasingly red or painful
- your sight becomes blurred.
You may need topical antibiotics and sterile drainage by your doctor.
You should see a doctor immediately if you have any of these:
How is a stye diagnosed?
If you are concerned that your stye is not getting better or affecting your eyesight, see your local GP or optometrist for an eye examination. They are able to detect eye diseases and help determine what is causing your eye problems. You will be referred to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) for further treatment if necessary. No special tests are needed most of the time.
How is a stye treated?
The aim of treatment is to keep your eyelids clean and free of irritants, and allow the natural healing process to clear the infection. You can do this treatment at home. It involves applying a warm compress to your eyelid to unblock the glands, followed by eyelid massage and cleaning of the eyelid.
Warm compress: Hold cotton facial pads soaked in warm water against your closed eyelids for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat this twice a day. This helps melt the oils in the blocked glands, allowing the oils to flow more freely.
Eyelid massage: To massage eyelids, use the tip of your finger to firmly stroke the skin of the top eyelids in a circular motion. This will help unblock the oil glands and squeeze out the oils.
Eyelid cleaning: Make up a solution of baby shampoo (1 part baby shampoo and 10 parts water). Dip a clean cotton bud in the solution and clean away any crusts present on the eyelashes and rub along the eyelids. Use a clean cotton bud for each eyelid. Repeat this process twice a day.
If you follow these steps, most styes will heal.
Avoid bursting the stye yourself at home as the infection may spread. If you have dry eyes, use an eye lubricant such as artificial tears, to keep your eyes moist.
While your eyes are irritated and inflamed, avoid using eye make-up such as eye shadow, eyeliner and other cosmetics around the eye. Also, avoid using contact lenses until the condition is under control.