A stye (or sty) is a small, red, painful bump near the edge of the eyelid. It’s also called a hordeolum.

This common eye condition can happen to anyone. It usually lasts for two to five days. In some cases a stye may last for a week or longer.

You can get a stye on your upper or lower eyelid. It usually forms on the outer side of the eyelid, but it can form on the inner side of the eyelid as well. You may have a stye in just one eye or both.

A stye might look like a tiny pimple or swelling along your eyelash line. It may form a small, round bump or cause your entire eyelid or eye area to swell.

You may also experience:

  • eyelid redness
  • pain, stinging, or tenderness
  • sore or scratchy eye
  • tearing or watery eye
  • crusting or oozing along the lash line
  • sensitivity to bright light
  • pus from the area
  • sore or scratchy eye
  • blurry vision

A bacterial infection usually causes a stye. Pus or liquid may fill the swollen area.

A stye that happens on the outer side of your eyelid is usually the result of an infection at the bottom of your eyelash.

A stye that develops on the inner side of your eyelid is most likely from an infection in one of the oil-producing glands that line your eyelids. These glands help keep your eyes and lashes healthy.

risks for getting a stye

You may have a higher risk for getting a stye if you have:

In most cases you won’t need treatment for a stye. It’ll get smaller and go away on its own in two to five days.

If you need treatment, antibiotics will normally clear up a stye in three days to a week. A healthcare provider will need to prescribe them to you.

At-home care can help relieve pain and swelling of a stye.

Avoid touching the area directly with your fingers. This can spread the infection or make it worse.

Follow these steps to soothe and clean the area around a stye:

  1. Boil a new washcloth in water to help make sure it’s clean and sterile.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
  3. Let the washcloth cool until it’s warm enough to touch.
  4. Gently apply it to your eyelid with the stye.
  5. Hold the washcloth against the area for up to 15 minutes.
  6. Release and repeat three to five times a day.
  7. Clean any discharge from your eye by wiping with a clean washcloth and a mild soap, like baby shampoo.

See your doctor or other healthcare provider if the stye doesn’t go away or begin to get smaller after two days. A different eye condition may be causing your eye irritation and require treatment.

Your doctor can diagnose a stye by looking at your eye and eyelid.

Tell your doctor immediately if you have blurry vision after getting a stye. This might happen if your eyelid swells so much that it’s pressing against your eye. Also let your doctor know if you have eye pain.

Some eye conditions can raise your risk for getting a stye. Blepharitis is a condition that happens when your entire lash line is infected. You may see oily flakes similar to dandruff at the base of your eyelashes.

Blepharitis can cause redness and swelling along the entire edge of your eyelid. It’s most common in people with oily skin, dry eyes, or dandruff. You may need treatment for blepharitis to prevent styes from forming.

Your doctor may recommend medications and treatment for your stye, such as:

  • antibiotic ointment, like erythromycin
  • antibiotic eye drops
  • oral antibiotic medication
  • incision and drainage to allow the infection to come out (you may need antibiotics after the procedure)
  • steroid injection in the eyelid to help reduce swelling

The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises that styes aren’t contagious. You can’t catch it from someone else who has a stye.

You can, however, spread the bacterial infection to other areas of your own eyelid or eyes. This can happen if you touch, squeeze, or rub the stye. You may also worsen the stye and cause it to swell more.

If you have a stye, avoid:

  • touching the area directly with your fingers
  • squeezing or popping the stye
  • wearing contact lenses
  • wearing eye makeup

Scar tissue can form in your eyelid if you have a very serious stye or don’t get treatment as needed. This can leave a small, hard lump or nodule in the eyelid. Your doctor may need to remove this if it’s affecting your vision or eyelid.

See your doctor if you have any kind of bump on the eyelid that doesn’t go away. They can make sure it’s not another condition that needs prompt treatment. Skin cancer and other conditions can form a tiny lump on the eyelids.

You can get a stye for no reason at all. You may not always be able to prevent one. However, you can reduce your risk for a stye by practicing good hygiene. Here are some tips:

  • Wash your hands carefully with soap and warm water several times a day, especially before touching your face or eyes.
  • Clean contact lenses with lens disinfectant cleaning solution. Discard used daily-wear contact lenses and put in a fresh pair.
  • Avoid sleeping while wearing contact lenses or eye makeup.
  • Wash your face to remove dirt, makeup, sweat, and excess oil before going to bed and after working out.
  • Clean makeup brushes carefully and regularly. Avoid sharing makeup or brushes with anyone else.
  • Throw away old or expired makeup.

A stye is a common eye infection. It normally lasts for a few days. You may not need treatment. At-home care can help relieve symptoms.

Anyone can get a stye. You can’t always prevent it, but good hygiene, especially around your eyes, can help reduce your risk for getting a stye.

Styes aren’t contagious, but you can spread the infection around the same eye or into your other eye.

See your doctor if your stye doesn’t go away or get better after two days. You may need antibiotic treatment. Be sure to take your antibiotics exactly as prescribed.

See your doctor for a follow-up appointment to make sure the stye has cleared up properly.