Styes

Eyelid pain and swelling? Maybe it’s a stye.

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Understanding a stye (also known as a sty)

A stye is a local infection in the eyelid that causes a tender, red bump near the edge of the lid.  The infection is caused by bacteria, and usually occurs at the base of an eyelash or within one of the small oil glands within the eyelid.

What are common symptoms of a stye?

A stye can present a variety of symptoms, including:  a red lump that looks like a boil or pimple, eyelid pain, eyelid swelling and tearing.  A stye can become more red, swollen and painful before it starts to drain on its own and disappear. 

What are common causes?

A stye is caused by an infection of oil glands in the eyelid and may result from poor facial hygiene, the use of contaminated eye makeup, or contact lenses that are not properly disinfected.  Styes may also be a complication of an inflammation of the eyelids called Blepharitis, which can be a result of exposing your eyes to bacteria.  Symptoms of blepharitis include tearing, itching and burning.

How to prevent a stye?

  • Good hygiene – Wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your eyes. Wash your face and eyes daily.
  • Cosmetics – Don’t share your cosmetics with others and don’t wear eye makeup overnight. Properly handle eye make-up, and replace frequently used items, like mascara, every two to four months.
  • Clean contacts – make sure you wash your hands well before handling contact lenses and disinfect your lenses regularly.
  • Compresses – if you’ve had a stye before, you might help prevent a recurrence with regular use of a warm compress.
  • Speed – Get prompt treatment for any eye infections.

Treatment options

In most cases, a stye doesn’t require treatment, and can go away on its own.  Until this happens:

  • Do not try to pop the sty or squeeze the pus. This can cause the infection to spread.
  • Clean your eyelid with soap and water and avoid wearing make-up until the stye has healed.
  • Do not wear contact lenses until your stye disappears. Contacts can become contaminated with the bacteria from the stye.
  • To relieve pain until the stye drains on its own, place a warm, clean washcloth over a closed eye for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat this two or three times a day

For a stye that persists, there are alternatives available at your local vybe urgent care.  A clinician may prescribe antibiotic eyedrops or a topical cream.  If the infection has spread beyond your eyelid, you may need oral antibiotics.

Occasionally, styes may become chronic and may need the care of an Ophthalmologist.

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Related Conditions and Services:

Pink Eye, Eye Pain