Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is a Stye?
This medical condition is an infection of your eyelids. There are two different types of stye which include:
- External eye stye – this type is visible outside of your eyelids in the form of a red bump.
- Internal eye stye – in this type the infection is inside your eyelids.
When a person has a stye it will be found most often along the edge of your eyelids. Another name for a stye is hordeolum. Sometimes it is spelled as sty. A stye is harmless but they can be unsightly. In some cases a stye can be confused with a chalazion, which is an enlarged oil gland in your eyelid that is blocked or a cyst. This type of cyst could develop if the infection of the stye persists for a long period of time.
A stye can happen at any age and to any race and gender but there seem to be a little increase in the number of stye that a person has during their thirties to fifties. In addition, people who have chronic conditions such as diabetes or other chronic debilitating illnesses are also more prone. Some research has also shown that people who have high levels of blood lipids, which are fats, are more susceptible to having eyelid oil glands blockage.
When a person has a stye the first classic sign is at the center of the bump a small yellowish spot forms in the center as pus starts to expand in the area of the stye. It looks like a pimple or boil but you should make sure that you do not squeeze it because it can spread the infection to other parts of your eyelids. Let it pop on its own.
Some of the other symptoms may include:
- Pain in your eyelid.
- Swelling of your eyelid or just the immediate area of the stye.
- Tearing, which may excessive at times, also known as watering eyes.
- Having crusting around your eyelid.
- Tenderness in the area.
- Itching, feeling irritated, or scratchy.
- Mucous discharge in your eye
- Your eyes may be sensitive to light or feel bruised.
- The bump can be on either eyelid, the bottom or the top.
- The eye may feel like it is burning.
- When blinking there may be some discomfort.
- It may feel like you have a foreign body in the eye but do not rub it.
- Your eyelid may droop.
When the stye is severe this is when you can develop an internal stye.
In approximately ninety-five percent of the cases of having a stye the cause is from the Staphylococcus aureus, which is a bacterium that is found on the skin and in your respiratory tract. Since this bacteria is often found in your nose, when you rub your nose you can transfer it to your eyes if you rub your eyes immediately afterwards.
There are many other causes that may be the reasons for a stye developing which can include:
- Having an infection of your oil glands of your eyelid called the melbomian glands, which are the gland that help to lubricate your eyeball. The stye develops after the glands become clogged.
- Having an infected hair follicle at the base of your eyelash.
- Being a complication of blepharitis, which is a diffuse inflammation of your eyelids.
- Poor eye hygiene, which includes washing off eye makeup before you go to bed.
- Sharing eye makeup with others.
- Wearing too much eye makeup.
- Being stressed
- Touching your eyes with unwashed hands.
- Constant rubbing of your eyes.
- Poor nutrition
- Sharing washcloths and towels.
- Sleep deprivation.
When a person has a stye it can last from seven to fourteen days if you do not get treatment for it and use home remedies but if you visit your physician for treatment it can heal up in four days or less. When you visit your physician for treatment of a stye they may accelerate the draining of the stye by lancing it with a needle, especially if it is irritating your eye or it is a persistent stye. The physician may prescribe an ointment called erythromycin ophthalmic, which is an antibiotic ointment to help keep it from expanding. The physician may also prescribe medicated eye drops. If the infections spreads past your eyelid or persists after using the antibiotic ointments or eye drops the physician may prescribe a tablet form of antibiotics. Before and after using medicated ointments or eye drops wash your hands and do not touch the dropper to the eye to avoid spreading the infection.
You can also get an over-the-counter medication to treat the stye such as medicated pad and ointments, which contain emollients like petroleum jelly to help keep your eye moisturized but do not treat the infection. They just help ease the discomfort and help alleviate the pain. These can also help relieve itching, stinging, and pain.
One thing to remember is that you want to treat the stye to get rid of the infection as fast as you can because the longer you have a stye the more of a chance there is for it turning into a chalazion. If home remedies are not working and it has been longer than fourteen days you should see your physician for treatment.
There are many different remedies that you can try at home to help alleviate the pain, itching, and discomfort of having a stye. Some of these may include:
- Using a warm cloth as a compress on the infected eyelid. Make sure that you close your eye first and use it for ten to fifteen minutes several times during the day to help encourage the stye to start to drain. When the washcloth starts to loose heat, re-wet it. Make sure that it is a clean washcloth and do not share it with anyone else.
- Keep your eye area clean which means no eye makeup until the stye has healed
- If you wear contacts you should not wear them until the stye is gone. You should also make sure that you clean your contact lenses good or get a new pair because they could be contaminated with the bacteria that caused the stye.
- Steep a handful of fresh parsley in a cup of boiling water for eight to ten minutes and soak a clean washcloth in the mixture. Make sure that it is not too hot when you place it on your eyes like you would a hot compress. This can help reduce the puffiness and swelling around your eye. You should do this at least three times a day for fifteen minutes at a time.
- You should also get new eye makeup because the old eye makeup could be contaminated with the bacteria.
Is a Stye contagious?
The answer to that question is yes. Almost everyone has the bacteria that cause a stye in their body so if you have a stye or are around someone that has one, make sure that you practice good hand washing practices to make sure that the bacteria that is causing the stye does not come in contact with your eye or anyone else’s. You should also make sure that you are not sharing towels, washcloths, makeup, etc with anyone else even if you do not have a stye. You could still transfer the bacteria from one person to another and get a stye. The bacteria that cause a stye can be spread via indirect or direct contact.
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