A stye is a painful red bump on the edge of your eyelid. Similar to an acne pimple, a stye forms when a tiny oil gland near your eyelashes becomes blocked and gets infected. Styes are very common, and in many cases, you can manage them at home. But some cases may require treatment by an eye care provider.


A stye forming on the edge of a person’s lower eyelid.
A stye (sty) is a painful red bump on the edge of your eyelid.

What is a stye?

A stye (or sty) is a painful red bump on the edge of your eyelid. It can look similar to an acne pimple and may be tender to the touch. A stye forms when a tiny oil-producing gland in your eyelash follicle or eyelid skin becomes blocked and a bacterial infection develops. The medical term for a stye is “hordeolum.”

It’s common to have a stye on only one eyelid, but it’s also possible to get styes on both lids. A stye usually lasts one to two weeks and will typically go away on its own. But in cases where it doesn’t, you may need to rely on an eye care provider to drain it. They may also prescribe antibiotics to reduce the infection.

A stye is similar to another eyelid bump called a chalazion. A chalazion is a bump that usually occurs farther back on your eyelid. Unlike a stye, a chalazion usually isn’t painful and isn’t caused by a bacterial infection. But treatment for both conditions is similar.

Types of styes

There are two types of styes:

  • External styes: External styes form on the outer part of either your upper or lower eyelid. They’re the more common type. An infection in your eyelash follicle usually causes them.
  • Internal styes: Internal styes form on either of your inner eyelids (facing your eyeball). An infection in the inner eyelid gland that produces oils that help keep your eyelid moist causes this type.

How common are styes?

Styes are very common. They’re more common in adults than children because the oil in an adult’s oil glands is thicker than a child’s. That means it’s more prone to blockage.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of a stye?

The main symptom of a stye is a painful red bump along your eyelid edge near your eyelashes. Other stye symptoms may include:

  • Swelling of your eyelid (sometimes your entire eyelid).
  • Discharge from your eye.
  • Crusting along your eyelid.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Soreness and itching.
  • Eye tearing.
  • A scratchy feeling or a feeling that there’s something in your eye.

What causes a stye?

A bacterial infection in your eyelid’s oil-producing glands causes most styes. The oil-producing glands line the eyelids and help lubricate the surface of your eye.

Are styes contagious?

Styes generally aren’t contagious. But small amounts of bacteria can be spread from them. This is why it’s important to always wash your hands before and after touching a stye and wash pillowcases often to help prevent the bacteria from spreading. Unless you’re cleaning or applying warm compresses to the stye, avoid touching it to reduce bacteria spread and irritation.

What are the risk factors for developing a stye?

Styes are very common, and anyone can get them. But you may be more likely to get a stye if you:


Diagnosis and Tests

How is a stye diagnosed?

Some styes are more stubborn and require a visit to a healthcare provider. If your vision seems to be affected or if your stye seems to be getting worse instead of better, contact a provider.

During your appointment, your provider will examine your eyelid and ask about any additional symptoms you’re having. They’ll be able to diagnose a stye based on this eye exam.

Management and Treatment

How do you get rid of a stye?

A stye will usually go away by itself in one to two weeks. To feel better faster and reduce pain and swelling, you can use a self-care plan to treat your stye at home. Here are some dos and don’ts to manage your stye at home.


  • Use warm compresses. Apply a warm washcloth to your eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, three to five times a day. Rewarm the washcloth by soaking it in warm water, wring and repeat. Many people believe that using green tea bags moistened in warm water as eye compresses will help the stye not only feel better, but also speed healing, due in part to the antibacterial properties of green tea. Some scientists have shown that a natural antioxidant in green tea breaks down the cell wall of the bacteria, killing it. While there’s debate about this among eye experts, it won’t hurt you and should be at least as effective as using a warm washcloth as a compress.
  • Clean eyelids. Gently wipe away eye discharge with a mild soapy solution made from half baby shampoo and half water. You can also use eyelid wipes available in most drug stores.



How will an eye care provider treat a stye?

If after 48 hours of stye self-care, your pain and swelling aren’t getting any better, it’s time to call your eye care provider. Stye treatment by a medical provider may include:

  • A small cut (incision) to drain your stye in the office (under local anesthesia).
  • Prescription antibiotic ointment to apply to your eyelid or antibiotic eye drops. Your provider may prescribe oral antibiotics in cases where the area around your eye is infected or after an incision is made to drain an internal stye.
  • A steroid injection into the stye to reduce eyelid swelling.


Can styes be prevented?

The best way to prevent a stye is to practice good facial hygiene, including:

  • Washing your hands thoroughly and often, especially before touching your face and eyes.
  • Washing your hands before and after removing contact lenses. Clean your contacts with disinfectant and lens cleaning solution. Dispose of daily wear or other “limited use” lenses on the schedule that your eye care provider recommends.
  • Washing your face to remove dirt and/or makeup before going to bed.
  • Throwing away eye makeup every two to three months. Never share eye makeup with anyone else.

Outlook / Prognosis

How serious is a stye?

Styes are usually harmless. They may cause some minor irritation and discomfort, but they typically go away on their own. Stye self-care measures like warm compresses can help speed up the healing process.

Although it will be tempting to cover the stye with makeup, avoid doing this. Putting makeup on a stye can delay the healing process or even cause it to become more plugged up and infected, which, in turn, will make it more painful.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

You should see your healthcare provider if:

  • Your eye is swollen shut.
  • Pus or blood is leaking from the bump.
  • Pain and/or swelling increases after the first two to three days.
  • Blisters have formed on your eyelid.
  • Your eyelids feel hot.
  • Your vision has changed.
  • Styes keep coming back. If this happens, your provider may take a biopsy (a small sample of the stye), under local anesthesia, to rule out other more serious problems.

What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?

If you have a stye, you may want to ask your provider the following questions:

  • Do styes usually go away on their own?
  • How long will it take a stye to heal?
  • What treatment options do you recommend?
  • Do I need to miss school or work if I have a stye?
  • If I’m in a lot of pain, can I take a pain reliever?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Ouch! What’s that painful red bump that’s developed on your eye? A common cause is a stye. Though they can be painful, most styes aren’t a cause for concern. Having a stye is usually manageable with good eyelid hygiene, and most cases will go away on their own. If the stye persists and doesn’t seem to be getting any better with at-home treatment, contact an eye care specialist.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 12/21/2023.

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