Sties are rarely a serious medical issue, but they can be pretty irritating. A stye is a red bump, sort of like a pimple that forms on the outside edge of your eyelid. Although, sometimes sties can form inside your eyelid as well.
Your eyelids have lots of tiny oil glands, which can become clogged by dead skin, dirt, or oil buildup. When a gland is blocked, bacteria can grow inside. This is what causes a stye to develop.
Symptoms of a stye include pain and swelling, increased tear production, and a crust that forms around they eyelid.
Sties generally go away after about 7 to 10 days with simple home treatment. Here are some ways you can treat and prevent sties.
Wash your hands
Rubbing your eyes with dirty hands can introduce dirt or other particles that may clog oil glands or irritate an existing stye. To prevent sties, wash your hands with soap and water before touching your eyes.
It might seem tempting to pop a stye, but squeezing it can cause more problems. Releasing the pus will likely spread the infection. Let the stye drain on its own or have a medical professional drain it for you.
Wet a clean washcloth with warm (not hot) water. Wring the cloth so it’s damp and not dripping. Then place it over your eye for about 5 to 10 minutes. You can do this three to four times each day. The warmth helps dissolve the pus and allows the stye to drain naturally.
Don’t try to put makeup over a stye. It can delay the healing process by irritating the eye even more. You could also get bacteria from the stye on your makeup pencils and brushes, which could spread the infection to your other eye.
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.
Cleaning your eyelids may help to prevent future styes. Choose a tear-free baby shampoo, mix it with a bit of warm water, and gently wipe off your eyelids using a cotton swab or clean washcloth. You can do this every day or two.
Toss old makeup
Old makeup can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Wash your reusable brushes regularly and throw out any mascara, liquid eyeliner, and eye shadow that are over three months old.
Instead of using a warm cloth compress, you can use a warm teabag. Green tea works best because it helps reduce swelling and has some antibacterial properties.
Boil water and drop the teabag in a mug as if you were making tea to drink. Let the tea steep for about one minute. Then wait until the teabag cools enough to place over your eye. Keep it on your eye for about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a separate teabag for each eye.
Taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help to ease symptoms if your stye is painful. Follow the instructions from the manufacturer to make sure you’re taking the correct dosage.
When to see a doctor
If your stye becomes larger, more painful, or doesn’t clear up a few days after starting home treatment, contact your doctor. Sometimes sties need to be professionally drained. Your doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic cream.