A stye is a small bump or swelling along the eyelash edge of your eyelid. This common but painful infection might look like a sore or pimple. Babies, children, and adults can get a stye.
It’s never a good idea to pop or squeeze a stye. Popping a stye can make it worse and cause other, more serious complications.
You can get a stye on your upper and lower eyelids. It may be on the outside of your eyelid or on the inner side. You usually get a stye on only one eye, but sometimes both eyes may have one at the same time.
A stye might look like a red, yellow, white, or pus-filled bump or boil on your lash line. It can sometimes make the whole eyelid swell.
Other symptoms include:
You shouldn’t pop, rub, scratch, or squeeze a stye. Popping a stye can open the area, causing a wound or injury to the eyelid. This can lead to several complications:
- It might spread the bacterial infection to other parts of your eyelid or to your eyes.
- It may worsen the infection inside the stye and cause it to get worse.
- It may cause a pigmented (dark-colored) scar on your eyelid.
- It may cause scar tissue (hardening or bump) on your eyelid.
- It may cause a pitting (holelike) scar on your eyelid.
- touching the area or your eyes with your fingers
- wearing contact lenses
- wearing eye makeup, like mascara
Additionally, it’s best not to pop a stye because the bump may be a different health issue or infection. These conditions can sometimes look like a stye:
- A chalazion is a painless bump that usually occurs farther up on the eyelid. A clogged oil gland usually causes it.
- High cholesterol can cause small bumps on or near your eyelids.
- Other kinds of infections (from bacteria or viruses) can also cause eyelid bumps.
- Skin cancer can sometimes cause a tiny lump on your eyelid.
See your doctor if you have any kind of sore or bump on your eyelid that doesn’t go away or develops more than once.
A bacterial infection usually causes a stye. There are two different kinds:
- An external or outer eyelid stye occurs when there’s an infection inside the hair follicle of an eyelash.
- An internal or inner stye often occurs when there’s an infection in an oil gland inside the eyelid.
A bacterial infection can develop from natural bacteria on your skin. It can also develop from dirty makeup brushes or mascara wands.
Toss old makeup, especially mascaras, eyeliners, and eyeshadows. Avoid sharing makeup. Carefully wash your hands with soap and water before putting in contact lenses or applying makeup.
Avoid wearing false lashes or lash extensions to reduce your risk for a stye or other kind of infection. Also avoid wearing contact lenses or makeup while sleeping. Additionally, regularly clean and refresh contact lenses.
If you have a condition called blepharitis, you may have a higher risk for getting a stye. This condition makes the entire eyelid red and swollen (inflamed). It’s more likely to occur if you have:
- dry eyes
- oily skin
Your primary care doctor or eye doctor can diagnose a stye by carefully looking at your eyelid and eye. They may use a scope to enlarge the area.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend a biopsy to make sure the bump on your eyelid is a stye and not a more serious condition.
This involves numbing the area first. Then a tiny bit of tissue is taken with a needle. The sample is sent to a lab to be analyzed under a microscope.
See your doctor if a stye doesn’t go away or get better after 2 to 3 days.
when to call your doctor
Call your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms at any time after getting a stye:
- blurred vision
- eye pain
- eye redness
- eye swelling
- eyelash loss
Also let your doctor know if you get styes more than once or twice, or have styes in both eyes. Another health condition may be leading to the styes.
A stye usually goes away without treatment. It may shrink in about 2 to 5 days. Sometimes a stye may last for a week or more.
There are several home remedies for soothing and treating a stye. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends using a clean, warm compress or soaking the area with warm water. This helps ease pain and swelling. It may also speed up healing.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the infection inside the stye, such as:
- antibiotic eye ointment
- eye drops
- oral antibiotics you take by mouth
Common antibiotics prescribed for a stye are:
- neomycin ointment
- polymyxin ointment
- gramicidin-containing eyedrops
If the stye is large, your doctor may give you a steroid injection in or near the area. This helps bring down redness and swelling.
In rare cases, you may need surgery to treat a very serious or long-lasting stye. The surgery drains the stye so it heals faster and better. This procedure is typically done in your doctor’s office. The area will be numbed first, so you won’t feel any pain.
If you’ve had styes more than once or twice, you may need treatment for an underlying condition, like blepharitis or severe dandruff, to help prevent or treat a stye.
A stye is a common infection in the upper or lower eyelid. It usually goes away on its own. Sometimes, you may need antibiotic treatment.
Popping a stye won’t help it heal or treat it. In fact, you can make a stye worse and cause other complication if you pop or squeeze it.