A stye is a small bump or swelling close to the edge of your eyelid, along the lash line. An internal stye, or hordeolum, is a stye on the inside of your eyelid.

While an internal or inner stye is less common than an external stye, one that occurs on the outer rim of the eyelid, internal styes can sometimes be worse or cause complications because they’re closer to your eye. This common eye infection usually goes away by itself.

An internal stye can happen on your upper or lower eyelid. It usually happens on one eye at a time, but you get them on both eyes. Most internal styes last for 7 days or less.

Signs and symptoms of an internal stye may be slightly different from an external stye, and you may not be able to see the stye directly if it’s on the inner eyelid.

You may have one or more of the following symptoms:

symptoms of an internal stye
  • red or white bump along the base of the eyelashes
  • lump or swelling on the eyelid
  • swelling of the entire eyelid
  • crusting on the eyelashes, eye, or eyelid
  • oozing or fluid
  • pain or soreness
  • itchiness
  • tearing or watery eyes
  • feeling like there is something in your eye
  • blurred vision

You can get a stye from an infection. An internal or inner stye is usually caused by a bacterial infection in an oil gland in your eyelid. On the other hand, an external or outer stye is usually caused by an infection in a hair or eyelash follicle.

You can get an infection from normal bacteria on your skin or in your body. A bacterial infection in your nose or sinuses can also spread to your eye and cause an internal stye. Wearing contact lenses or false eyelashes or using makeup brushes can also spread bacteria to your eyelids and eyes.

Internal styes aren’t contagious. You can’t catch a stye from someone else. However, you can spread bacteria from an internal stye to your eye. This can happen if you rub, pop, or squeeze a stye.

Internal styes are usually more painful than external styes. They may also last longer. A serious internal stye can sometimes become chronic and return after it heals. It can also cause a hardened cyst, or chalazion, on the inside of your eyelid.

According to a medical review, if you get internal styes often you may be a carrier of Staphylococcus bacteria in your nose passages. This can increase the risk for other nose, sinus, throat, and eye infections.

If you have an internal stye, you can see your optometrist or other healthcare provider. In more serious cases, you may be referred to an eye specialist known as an ophthalmologist.

Your doctor can examine your eye to see if you have an internal stye. You may need a swab test to find out if you have an infection. A swab test is painless and takes only a few seconds.

Your doctor will dab a cotton swab along your eyelid. The sample will be sent to a lab to find out what kind of infection may be causing the internal stye.

facts about internal styes
  • Internal styes are less common than external styes.
  • They may be more painful and take longer to heal.
  • A warm compress can help heal an internal stye.
  • Your doctor may recommend antibiotics to treat the stye.

An internal stye may last up to 7 days. It typically shrinks and goes away on its own. See your doctor if the internal stye doesn’t heal.

Also, see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms with an internal stye:

  • severe eyelid or eye pain
  • eyeball redness
  • severe eyelid swelling
  • eye bruising
  • loss of eyelashes

Tell your doctor if you’ve had an internal stye more than once, or if you have had styes in both eyes. You may have an infection that needs medical treatment.

You may be able to treat an internal stye at home, but be sure to see your doctor if symptoms worsen or if you have new symptoms. Treatment options for an internal stye include:

Home remedies

Home remedies to help soothe an internal stye include holding a clean, warm compresses against the affected eye. Keeping the area clean by flushing the eye with sterile saline can help remove crusting and fluid in the eye.

Gently massage the eyelid with one or two fingers after carefully washing your hands. This may help ease pain and swelling. Wash your hands again after touching the internal stye area.

what to avoid if you have an internal stye
  • touching the area repeatedly or touching your other eye
  • trying to pop or squeeze an internal stye — this can worsen or spread infection
  • wearing contact lenses
  • wearing eye makeup or eye cream

Medical treatment

Your doctor may prescribe a short course of:

  • oral antibiotics
  • antibiotic eye ointment
  • antibiotic eye drops
  • steroid eye drops

Some antibiotic medications your doctor may recommend include:

  • erythromycin ointment
  • dicloxacillin tablets
  • neomycin ointment
  • gramicidin-containing eye drops

In more serious cases, your doctor or eye specialist may drain the internal stye. This is done by numbing the area and using a needle or small cut to help remove the fluid. Draining an internal stye may help it heal.

Some conditions can give you a higher risk of getting an internal stye. Treating these conditions can help prevent internal styes. These include:

Internal styes are less common than external styes. However, they can be more painful and cause more complications. Internal styes don’t usually last very long and may go away on their own.

You might need treatment for an internal stye if it’s serious or long-lasting. If the infection isn’t treated properly, you can get a stye again.

Internal styes are painful bumps or swelling on the inside of your eyelid. They’re not as common as external styes. However, styes are a common type of eyelid infection.

Internal styes usually last for about a week. They normally get better without treatment. In some cases, you may need antibiotics.