A stye is a red, swollen, and often painful bump that appears near the root of the eyelash or close to the edge of the eyelid. Styes may feel like you have dust or sand trapped under your eyelid. Generally, a stye goes away on its own within a week.
Usually, a bacterial infection of the eyelid gland causes styes. Styes may develop if you touch your eyes with unwashed hands, use expired makeup, sleep with makeup on, or do not properly clean your contacts.
How long a stye lasts depends on your symptoms, which may include:
- Swelling of the eyelid
- Pain or tenderness near the stye
- Redness of the eyelid
- Feeling like a foreign object is in your eye
- Crusting near the eyelid
For example, if you have severe symptoms that do not go away, or if the stye grows larger, you may require a visit to a healthcare provider. They may prescribe antibiotics or advise incision and drainage of the stye. In those cases, the stye may take longer than one week to heal. Talk to a healthcare provider if your stye does not go away within two weeks.
Some evidence suggests that there are steps you can take to help your stye go away more quickly. However, more research is needed to pinpoint the most effective methods of treating styes.
Some people mistake styes for a pimple. However, the very last thing you want to do is pop them. Squeezing a stye can lead to infection. Instead, one of the best things you can do is adopt a hands-off approach. Styes typically drain and heal on their own.
Although a stye will usually disappear, a warm compress can help speed healing. First, thoroughly wash your hands. Then, dampen a washcloth with warm water, and place the compress on the affected eye for 15 minutes, four times daily.
Be careful of the water temperature when dampening the washcloth. Temperatures that are too hot can burn or scald the delicate skin around your eye. Also be careful not to reuse washcloths to avoid spreading the infection.
Massaging the affected eyelid with soap may help get rid of bacteria. First, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water. Then gently massage your eyelid using a lid scrub with saline or baby shampoo.
In some cases, topical antibiotics may be used to treat styes. However, research around the necessity of topical antibiotics is inconclusive.
One of the most common topical antibiotics is erythromycin ophthalmic ointment. A healthcare provider may advise applying the ointment twice daily for seven to 10 days.
If the stye becomes painful after 48 hours or causes a fever or vision problems, consult a healthcare provider right away. Although rare, styes may become infected. In that case, a healthcare provider may prescribe oral antibiotics.
In some cases, a healthcare provider may inject antibiotics into the affected area. They may prescribe systemic antibiotics if the infection spreads or local antibiotics fail.
Incision and Drainage
Rarely, if the stye grows too large, you may require minor surgery to drain it. An ophthalmologist will perform the incision and drain the cyst using local anesthesia. Then, they will reevaluate you within two to three days. The ophthalmologist will likely send the stye for a biopsy to ensure it's not cancerous.
Living With and Managing Styes
The bacteria that cause styes are contagious. In other words, the bacteria can spread to your other eye or someone else. So, err on the side of caution and don't touch your eyes without washing your hands. Also, refrain from sharing makeup with friends.
Take the following steps to prevent future styes:
- Always wash your hands with soap and water before touching your eyes
- Never share eye makeup or brushes
- Throw out expired makeup
- Remove makeup before going to bed
Finally, avoid concealing a red or inflamed eye bump with makeup. A stye may come and go in a few days. However, your eye may not fully heal for 10 days. During healing, avoid using eye makeup like mascara. If possible, avoid using contact lenses as well.
A Quick Review
A stye is a red, swollen, and often painful bump that appears near the eyelid. Styes, which result from a bacterial infection, usually go away within a week. Still, warm compresses and gentle massage with soap may speed healing. In severe cases, a healthcare provider may advise antibiotics or incision and drainage of the stye.
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