You can treat a stye with home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. If these don’t help resolve it, you should see a doctor.

Your eyelids have lots of tiny oil glands, especially around the eyelashes.

Dead skin, dirt, or oil buildup can clog these small holes. Bacteria can then grow inside and cause a pimple-like stye to develop. This is also known as a hordeolum.

About 90% to 95% of stye cases are caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus or Staphylococcus epidermidis.

Read on to learn more about styes and how to treat them.

An external stye is a blockage, like a pimple, that forms on the outside edge of the eyelid. Bacteria on your skin can then infect this blockage. A stye can also be internal, forming inside the eyelid under the edge.

Symptoms of a stye include:

“Styes usually go away on their own within 7 to 10 days,” Dr. Michele Green, New York-based cosmetic dermatologist, tells Healthline.

If you have a bump but little pain or discomfort, you may have a chalazion. Like a style, a chalazion is a blockage but one that isn’t infected.

Here are six ways to speed up the healing process for styes.

A warm compress is the most effective way to treat a stye. The warmth helps bring the pus to the surface, dissolving it so the stye can drain naturally.

Wet a clean washcloth with warm water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot. Wring the cloth, so it’s damp but not dripping. Then gently place it over your eye for about 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t squeeze or try to puncture the stye.

To keep the washcloth warm, reheat it every 30 seconds by dipping it in warm water and wringing it. Repeat the compress about four times daily for optimal results.

Instead of using a warm cloth compress, you can use a warm tea bag. Black tea works best because it helps reduce swelling and has antibacterial properties.

Add boiled water to a mug, then drop a tea bag as if you were making tea. Let the tea steep for about 1 minute. Wait until the tea bag cools enough to place over your eye, then keep it on your eye for about 5 to 10 minutes. Warm it up every 30 seconds by placing it in warm water and wringing it. Use a separate tea bag for each eye.

“You can use black tea as a compress twice daily to reduce swelling and discomfort associated with a stye,” Green says.

However, the wetness might irritate the skin in some people, so you can also make a dry compress by placing a bit of uncooked rice in a sock and microwaving it for 20 seconds. Make sure to press on the bump to help it drain.

You can do this three to four times each day.

Green advises avoiding harsh, synthetic chemicals when cleaning the eye area. Instead, she says, ingredients should be hypoallergenic and non-irritating.

“The skin around the eyes is much thinner than the rest of your face. Therefore, you need to be careful with products you apply to your eye area,” Green says.

She recommends using OCuSOFT to cleanse eyelids because it’s been shown to be effective against bacteria commonly found on the eyelid. Its formula effectively kills seven different strains of bacteria, according to Green.

You can also choose a tear-free baby shampoo and mix it with warm water. Use a cotton swab or clean washcloth to gently wipe off your eyelids. You can do this every day until the stye is gone. Cleaning your eyelids also helps prevent future styes.

Another option is to use a saline solution. It can help promote drainage and break down bacterial membranes.

Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain med like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to get relief. Follow the instructions on the package to make sure you’re taking the correct dose.

Avoid wearing makeup if you have a stye. Makeup can irritate the eye even more and delay the healing process. You can also transfer additional bacteria to your makeup and tools, adding another infection to the stye.

Wash your reusable brushes regularly. Throw out any eye products over 3 months old or if you’ve been using them while you have a stye.

If you wear contact lenses, stick with glasses until your stye heals. Bacteria from the stye can get onto the contacts and spread the infection.

Change to a new set of contact lenses when the stye heals to prevent reinfection.

You can massage the area in combination with the lid wipes to promote drainage. Massage the area gently with clean hands. Once the stye drains, keep the area clean, and avoid touching your eyes. Stop if massaging hurts.

Stop using and throw away any makeup products for the eye, such as mascara and eyeliner, as they may contain bacteria.

If the stye is causing serious pain and interferes with your day-to-day activity, visit your doctor. They may prescribe an antibiotic ointment, erythromycin, which you’ll have to apply for 7 to 10 days. However, research shows topical antibiotics are not always effective.

If symptoms do not improve, you may need to see an ophthalmologist for more specialized treatment. They may need to drain it, especially if it’s internal or affecting your vision.

Can you pop a stye?

Styes are caused by bacteria, so don’t pop, squeeze, or touch a stye. It might seem tempting, but squeezing will release pus into the eyelid itself and may lead to a wider infection. See a doctor if home remedies do not help clear it.

Are styes contagious?

Styes aren’t directly contagious. You cannot get a stye by coming in contact with a person who has it. It’s a phenomenon of local inflammation and irritation that can’t be spread to others through casual contact.

However, if you pick at the stye, you could spread the bacteria elsewhere. You could also introduce additional bacteria to the area, which can cause a secondary infection to form.

How do you prevent styes?

To avoid getting a stye, wash your hands with soap and water before touching your eyes, clean your eyelids with an ear swab dipped in warm water and mild soap or shampoo, and remove eye makeup every night before sleeping. Getting a stye also increases your risk of another one. Using compresses regularly can help prevent another from forming.

How long does a stye last?

A stye can last several weeks and even months if untreated. It will eventually break open and drain.

The healing process can last about 7 to 10 days with home treatment. Styes are rarely a serious medical issue, but they can be irritating.

When should I see a doctor?

See your doctor if your stye does not resolve with home remedies or if you have reoccurring styes. You may have another underlying condition, such as conjunctivitis, blepharitis, or cellulitis.

Other signs include growing redness and swelling on the skin around the stye or inflammation and crusting in the eye area without a visible bump. In addition, see a doctor immediately if you notice changes to your vision that don’t go away after you blink or if your eye becomes sensitive to light.

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