A stye is a painful red bump on your eyelid edge. Similar to an acne pimple, a stye forms when a tiny oil gland near the eyelashes becomes blocked and gets infected. Styes are very common and in many cases, you can manage a stye at home. However, some cases may require treatment by an eye care provider.
A stye (sometimes spelled sty) is a painful red bump on the edge of your eyelid. It can look similar to an acne pimple. A stye forms when a tiny oil-producing gland in your eyelash follicle or eyelid skin becomes blocked and gets infected. The medical term for a stye is a hordeolum.
There are two types of styes:
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.
It’s common to have a stye on only one eyelid, but it is also possible to get styes on both lids.
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Styes are very common and occur equally in all races and genders. However, styes may be more common in adults than children simply because the oil in an adult’s oil glands is thicker than a child’s. That means it’s more prone to blockage.
If you have certain conditions, such as blepharitis, dandruff, rosacea, diabetes or high levels of bad cholesterol, you’re more at risk to develop a stye. In most cases, a stye will go away by itself in several weeks. If it doesn’t dissolve naturally after the second week, contact an eye care professional for advice.
A stye usually lasts one to two weeks.
A stye will usually 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 caused by a bacterial infection in your eyelid’s oil-producing glands. The oil-producing glands line the eyelids and help lubricate the surface of the eye.
Signs and symptoms of a stye include:
Styes generally aren’t contagious. However, small amounts of bacteria can be spread from your or your child’s stye. 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.
Styes aren’t considered contagious. You can go to work or send your child to school when you have a stye.
Some styes are more stubborn and require a visit to your healthcare provider. If your vision seems to be affected or if your stye seems to be getting worse instead of better, contact your provider. During your appointment, your provider examines your eyelid and asks you about any additional symptoms that you’re having. They may prescribe some antibiotic eye ointment if you get styes often. Or they may recommend a procedure to lance the stye and clean out the infection. This will be done with a local anesthetic to numb the area. Sometimes for more persistent cases you will be given an oral antibiotic as well to help stop the bacteria from spreading.
Styes are very common. Anyone can get a stye. However, you may be more likely to get a stye if you:
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.
If after 48 hours of self-care your pain and swelling aren’t getting any better, it’s time to call your eye care provider.
Medical treatments for styes include:
The best way to prevent a stye is to practice good facial hygiene, including:
Although it will be tempting to cover the unsightly 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.
See your provider if:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
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. Neither you nor your child need to miss school or work while waiting for a stye to heal.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/13/2021.
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