Stye: Causes, prevention, and treatment

A stye is an inflammation of the eyelid associated with a small collection of pus. In most cases, the infection is caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria.

It is sometimes known as a hordeolum.

Although uncomfortable and incredibly common, styes are not generally a cause for concern.

Often the lump is red and painful and looks like a boil or pimple. Although most styes form on the outside of the eyelid, some do develop on the inside.

In the majority of cases, styes get better within 1 week without any medical intervention. External styes, or those outside the eyelid, may turn yellow and release pus. Internal styes that appear inside the eyelid tend to be more painful.

Applying a warm compress gently against the stye helps it release pus more readily, and resolve the pain and swelling. Sometimes a stye can recur.

In this article, we will cover the symptoms of a stye, how they are diagnosed, treatments, including home remedies, risk factors, and possible complications.

Fast facts on styes

Here are some key points about styes. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

Styes can be painful but often heal without medical intervention.

If a stye persists for more than a week or affects vision, medical attention should be sought.

Styes can be external or internal.

Home remedies for styes include a warm compress and OTC pain medication.

Symptoms

[Man with external stye]
Most commonly, styes only affect one eye at a time.

The patient will have a painful red swelling on the eyelid which can make the eye produce tears and become red. Sometimes styes can look like a pimple.

Styes very rarely affect both eyes simultaneously. An individual will generally have one stye in one eye. However, it is possible to have more than one stye in the same eye or one in each eye.

Symptoms of a stye can include:

a lump on the eyelid

swelling of the eyelid

pain

redness

tenderness

crusting of the margins of the eyelids

burning sensation

droopiness of the eyelid

itching of the eye

blurry vision

discharge of mucus from the eye

light sensitivity

tearing

discomfort when blinking

the feeling that there is an object in the eye

The individual should speak to a doctor if the stye persists for greater than 1 week, vision problems arise, if the swelling becomes particularly painful, bleeds, or spreads to other parts of the face, or if the eyelid or eyes become red.

There are two general categories of stye:

External hordeolum

External styes emerge along the outer edge of the eyelid. They can become yellow, filled with pus, and painful when touched. They can be caused by an infection of the following:

Eyelash follicle: The small holes in the skin from which eyelashes grow.

Sebaceous (Zeis) gland: This gland is attached to the eyelash follicle and produces sebum. Sebum helps lubricate the eyelash and stop it from drying out.

Apocrine (Moll) gland: This gland also helps prevent eyelashes from drying out. It is a sweat gland that empties into the eyelash follicle.

Internal hordeolum

The swelling develops inside the eyelid. Generally, an internal hordeolum is more painful than an external one. They are also referred to as an internal stye and are most commonly due to an infection in the meibomian gland. These glands are responsible for producing a secretion which makes up part of the film that covers the eye.

Patients may also experience a burning sensation in the eye, crusting of the eyelid margins, droopiness of the eyelids, itchiness on the eyeball, sensitivity to light, tearing, a feeling that something is stuck to the eye, and discomfort when blinking.

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