A stye is a bump on the eyelid that is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Treatment can help to prevent the spread of the infection.

A stye is a common condition that often resolves on its own or with home treatment. You can get a stye inside or outside your lower eyelid.

A stye is also called a hordeolum.

Although a stye is usually not serious, treatment is a good idea to prevent the spread of the underlying infection. You may also want to see a doctor if you’re not sure whether you have a stye and need to rule out a more serious condition.

A stye causes similar symptoms whether it’s outside (external) or inside (internal) your lower eyelid.

External stye

An external stye may look like a pimple. Other symptoms include:

  • lump with a small pus spot at the center
  • painful lump along the outer edge of the eyelid
  • swelling of the entire eyelid
  • crustiness along the edge of the eyelid (eyelid margin)
  • light sensitivity

Internal stye

It may be hard to see an internal stye unless you inspect the inner eyelid. Symptoms include:

  • feeling something is in your eye
  • scratchiness in the eye
  • light sensitivity
  • painful lump along the inner edge of the eyelid
  • swelling of the entire eyelid
  • crustiness in the eyelid margin
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A stye is a common cause of a painful red bump on the eyelid. Photography by Imrankabirhossain/Wikimedia Commons

What’s the difference between a chalazion and a stye?

A chalazion can look very similar to a stye. Both are bumps that can appear on the edge of or inside an eyelid.

While a stye is often painful and causes swelling, a chalazion usually doesn’t hurt very much at first and doesn’t usually cause the entire eyelid to swell. A blocked oil gland causes a chalazion while a stye is caused by an infection.

A stye is caused by a bacterial infection, usually Staphylococcus aureus or Staphylococcus epidermidis.

If a stye is on the outside of the bottom eyelid, the infection has made an abscess in an eyelash follicle. If it’s on the inside, the infection is in the eyelid oil glands.

Simple home remedies can often treat a stye. If these don’t work, you can also see a medical professional for treatment.

Home treatment

There are steps you can take at home to clear up a stye quickly and prevent the infection from spreading.

Try applying a warm compress to the stye for 15 minutes four times a day and massaging the stye and eyelid to help with drainage.

Learn more about treating a stye at home.

Medical treatment

If the stye doesn’t get better in a few days with home treatment, you may want to see a doctor for medical treatment options like:

  • apply erythromycin ophthalmic ointment twice daily
  • oral antibiotics
  • surgical drainage
  • removal of the eyelash

A doctor can also examine the stye to make sure it’s not actually a different type of lump like a chalazion.

Even simple home treatment, such as applying a warm compress several times a day, can help a stye to go away quicker. Since a stye comes from an infection, it’s possible the infection could spread, so quick resolution is a good idea.

However, a stye can go away on its own even if you do nothing other than wash the area daily. It usually lasts about 1 to 2 weeks with no medical treatment.

Sometimes a stye forms even if you take steps to prevent it. You can reduce your risk of a lower eyelid stye by keeping the eye area clean. The following actions can help:

  • replacing eye makeup frequently
  • washing your face before bed
  • removing all makeup before sleeping
  • cleansing eyelids and eyelashes with plain water or baby shampoo
  • only touching your eyes or inserting contact lenses with clean hands

If someone else in your home has a stye, don’t share towels until their stye gets better.

A lump on your lower eyelid can be something other than a stye.


Blepharitis causes swollen and itchy eyelids with crusts around the eyelashes. When it’s caused by bacteria around the eye, it can lead to a stye.


A chalazion may start out as painless or slightly tender. It’s not usually caused by an infection but by a blockage of the oil glands of the eyelid. It’s more common in the upper eyelid than the lower eyelid.


Xanthelasmas are flat or raised growths of skin on or near the eyelids. They may appear yellow in color, in particular on light skin. Xanthelasmas are cholesterol deposits under the skin. They don’t resolve without treatment and can be a sign of heart disease.


Some skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma (BCC), can appear on the eyelids. BCC can look like a round lump the same color as your skin or another shade.

Actinic keratosis (AK) is a precancerous growth that looks like a reddish spot on light skin, or brown or black on darker skin. AKs can develop into squamous cell carcinoma, another type of skin cancer.

You can see a doctor about a stye on your lower eyelid whenever home treatment is not working, or:

  • you’re not sure whether you have a stye or another kind of eyelid lump
  • the stye makes it hard for you to see
  • you have a lot of pain or swelling
  • the stye doesn’t get better within a few weeks

A doctor may recommend medical treatment or order tests to see whether your lower eyelid bump is a stye or something else.

A lower eyelid stye is a common treatable condition. Usually, home treatment with warm compresses resolves the condition.