An eye stye, or also sty as it is sometimes spelled, is an infection of the glands at the base of the eyelashes. These glands secrete either oil or sweat and can sometimes become inflamed. A stye is also sometimes referred by its medical term: hordeolum. A stye can be external or internal depending on its location on the eye. External styes are found on the outside of the eyelids and often look like a small red bump or pimple usually at the base of the eyelashes. Internal styes are infections of the oil-secreting glands that line the inside of the eyelids. Styes usually have a sudden onset and often last around 7-10 days if not treated right away.
What Causes a Stye?
Styes are commonly caused by bacteria, usually either Staphylococcus aureus or Staphylococcus intermedius, as these are the two most common bacteria found on the skin. Styes can also be caused by the blocking of the oil glands at the base of the eyelashes. Styes are common in people of all ages and are one of the most common eye conditions. They are often triggered by stress, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, or poor hygiene. Bacteria can also be transferred to the eye from other parts of the body, and usually occurs when frequent rubbing of the eyes occur.
How do I know if I have an eye stye?
When a stye is first developing, the eye or eyelid may be itchy, tender, or uncomfortable. When the stye first begins to appear, there may be a small bump that looks similar to a pimple. As the stye progresses, the bump may enlarge and the eyelid may swell. The eye may become red and uncomfortable as well. In serious cases, vision may become impaired.
Other stye symptoms may include:
• A small bump on the eyelid, usually at the base of the eyelashes
• A localized or general swelling of the eyelid
• Pain and discomfort in the affected eye
• Redness of the eyelid or the eye itself
• Tenderness or discomfort when the eye is touched
• Crusting of the eyelid margins
• Burning in the eye
• Droopiness of the eyelid
• Blurred vision
• Mucous discharge in the eye
• Sensitivity to light or photophobia
• Excessive tearing in the affected eye
• Discomfort when blinking the eye
• Sensation of a foreign body in the eye
What are my choices for eye stye treatment?
The first step in treating a stye is to apply a warm compress on the affected eye. This should be done four to six times a day for approximately 15 minutes each time. By doing this, you will help open up and drain the stye and will help start the healing process. The stye should then be scrubbed gently with a non-irritating, antibacterial solution. These solutions can be found by going to the Scrubs and Rinses page. It is important to mention that even though the stye may look like a pimple, it should never be squeezed or punctured, as a serious eye infection could result. People with eye styes should also avoid wearing eye makeup or contact lenses, as this could aggravate the area and even spread the infection.
Other treatments that may be helpful are to use various eye ointments or drops that provide relief. These products can often be applied directly to the stye and help to numb the pain, combat the infection, and encourage healing of the stye site. In some cases, a prescription medication may need to be provided by a doctor and in severe cases, surgery may be needed to drain or remove the stye. Although rare, it is important to seek medical treatment from a doctor if the stye is getting worse or not healing after a week.
How long will these eye styes last?
Eye styes are harmless in most cases and usually go away within a week. With adequate treatment, styes tend to heal quickly rarely have complications. Again, if the stye is getting worse or any part of the actual eye is affected, seek medical attention immediately.
How Can I Prevent Styes from Occurring?
Stye prevention is closely related to proper hygiene. Proper hand washing is critical. People should also try to avoid rubbing their eyes, as this can easily transmit bacteria to the eyelid. For people prone to getting styes, eyelid scrubs can be used regularly to clean the eyelids and prevent bacterial infections or blockages of the eyelid glands. It is also recommended not to share items used on the eye such as contacts or cosmetics. Women are advised to remove eye makeup at night and to properly clean their cosmetic tools. Unfortunately, eye styes are stubborn and often reoccur. However, proper daily hygiene and eye stye treatment can reduce the severity and frequency that these styes occur.