Updated on 

June 17, 2022

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Stye Treatments and Home Remedies

What are Styes?

An eye stye, or hordeolum, is a red, painful bump that develops on the edge of your upper or lower eyelid due to clogged eyelid follicles. It's commonly confused with a chalazion

The difference is that a stye is painful and results from an infected eyelash root.1 A chalazion is rarely painful, develops inside the eyelid, and is caused by clogged oil ducts.

There are two types of styes:

  • External hordeolum. A stye that forms at the root of the eyelash. It's caused mainly by hair follicle infections and usually resembles a pimple.
  • Internal hordeolum. A stye that develops inside the eyelid. It's mainly caused by infection of an oil gland.

A stye usually goes away within 7 to 10 days without treatment. However, you may need medical assistance to drain it if it persists.

How Do Styes Develop?

The eyelids contain numerous oil glands, especially around the eyelashes. Dirt, oil buildup, and dead skin can block these glands, which creates room for bacteria growth and infection. 

During the first stage of stye development, your eyelids will appear red and tender to touch. 

Research shows that most styes are caused by two bacterial species: staphylococcus aureus and staphylococcus epidermidis.2

Are Styes Contagious? 

Styes are not contagious. However, the pus and causative bacteria from the stye can transfer to other skin areas and cause breakouts. 

To prevent the spread of bacteria, wash your hands before and after touching the stye. It's also important to frequently wash bedding and pillows. 

Common Symptoms of Styes

Symptoms of a stye include:

  • Painful red bump on the eyelid
  • Swelling of the eyelid 
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Soreness and itching
  • Tearing
  • A gritty feeling in the eyes
  • Crusting along the infected eyelid

7 Best Treatments for a Stye 

Below are the seven best ways to get rid of a stye:

1. Use a Warm Compress

Using a warm compress is the most effective treatment for a stye. When the stye is subjected to increased temperatures, it ruptures, which makes it easy to drain. 

To apply a warm compress, wet a clean washcloth in warm water. Then, place the washcloth over your eyes for about 5 to 10 minutes.3 Repeat this several times daily until the stye goes away.

Do not try to squeeze the stye. Doing so may push the infected pus further into the tissue and make the stye larger.4

2. Keep Your Eyelids Clean

Clean the skin around the stye to prevent further infection and remove debris that may block draining. The skin around your eyes is thin and vulnerable to harsh cleaning products, so be gentle. 

Different cleaning formulas and mild shampoos are designed to work against common eyelid bacteria. You can find these in your local pharmacy or online.

Using a saline solution to clean the stye also promotes drainage and destroys bacteria cells. A saline solution is a mixture of sodium chloride (salt) and water.5

3. Take Pain Medications

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil will help relieve eye pain due to stye formation.6

If you experience severe and prolonged pain, contact your doctor.

4. Avoid Makeup and Contact Lenses

Makeup acts as a breeding ground for bacteria. When you have a stye, you may transfer bacteria from your makeup brushes to your eyes and cause further infection. Even worse, you may transfer bacteria to the other eye. 

Contact lenses can also introduce bacteria to your eyes if you don’t handle them properly. To be safe, wear your eyeglasses until your stye heals.

Once healed, replace your contact lenses, as previous ones may harbor stye bacteria.

5. Take Antibiotics

Although there's no solid evidence, antibiotic ointments, such as erythromycin, can prevent further infection by destroying bacteria in mild styes. OTC ointments can be found in your neighborhood pharmacy or online.

Before using any ointments, make sure they're safe to use around the eyes.

6. Use Warm Tea Bags

Warm tea bags are another way to use a warm compress on your infected eyes. Green and black tea work best because they have antimicrobial properties.7

To use this method effectively, put hot water in a mug and drop a teabag in it. Let it stand for about a minute, then remove it from the water and allow it to cool. 

Once it cools enough to not burn your eyes, place it on the infected eye for about 5 to 10 minutes. This method will reduce swelling and discomfort.

If both eyes are infected, use a separate tea bag for each eye. 

7. Light Massages

Massaging the area gently can promote drainage. Just remember to wash your hands before massaging the area to avoid further infection.8

Once the stye drains, clean the area with eyelid wipes and wash your hands with soap and water afterward. Stop massaging your eyelids if it causes pain.

When to See a Medical Professional

You should see an ophthalmologist if your stye lasts longer than a week with no signs of improvement. 

Other signs you should seek medical assistance include:

  • A rapidly growing stye
  • Feeling like there's something in your eye
  • Impacted vision
  • Bleeding
  • The infection spreads around the eye area (preseptal cellulitis)
  • Redness in the cheeks or face (spreading infection)

Diagnosis 

Your doctor will identify a stye by looking at it. They may use a light and a magnifying device to examine the infected area. 

Determining the Best Treatment 

A stye doesn't always require treatment, but applying warm compresses can speed up the healing process. Styes usually disappear on their own, but recurrence is common. 

If a stye persists, your doctor may recommend:

  • Antibiotic therapy. Your eye doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or a topical antibiotic cream. They may prescribe antibiotics in tablet or pill form if your eyelid infection persists or if it goes beyond your eyelid.
  • Surgery. Your doctor will recommend surgery if your stye requires manual puncturing. They will make a small incision to drain the pus and relieve pressure.

Can You Prevent Styes? 

Stress and certain lifestyle habits can contribute to stye formation. They can also cause recurring or persistent styes.

You can prevent styes by:

  • Washing your hands before touching your eyes, especially when wearing contacts
  • Removing your facial makeup before bedtime to avoid clogged eye follicles
  • Replacing your makeup every 6 months to prevent bacteria growth
  • Not rubbing your eyes if you have allergies
  • Exploring relaxation techniques to relieve stress
  • Using commercial eyelid wash to keep your eyelids clean
  • Trying a warm compress to remove oil that may clog up your eyelid follicles

Summary

A stye (hordeolum), is a red, painful bump that develops on the edge of your upper or lower eyelid due to clogged eyelid follicles.

There are two types of styes based on where they develop: internal hordeolum and external hordeolum. The external hordeolum develops at the root of the eyelash, whereas the internal hordeolum develops inside the oil gland of the eyelid.

A stye usually goes away within 7 to 10 days. Common treatments can speed up healing and may include antibiotics, painkillers, warm compresses, frequent cleaning, and light massages.

If your stye persists, spreads rapidly, or is accompanied by severe pain, bleeding, and visual distortion, you may need medical assistance. Your doctor can identify a stye just by looking at it and determine a proper treatment plan.

Professional treatments include antibiotic therapy to prevent bacteria growth and surgery to drain the pus.

8 Cited Research Articles
  1. Boyd K., “What Are Styes and Chalazia?,” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 18 Nov. 2021
  2. Willmann D. et al., “Stye,”  National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 02 Nov. 2021
  3. Home Treatment for Stye,” NYU Langone Health
  4. Styes,”  Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia 
  5.  Lindsley K. et al., “Interventions for acute internal hordeolum,”  National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 08 Sep. 2010
  6. Offerdahl-McGowan T. et al.,“Developing a Pain Pill Protocol in Optometry,” Review of optometry, 15 Sep. 2019
  7. Chan E. et al.,“Antioxidant and antibacterial properties of green, black, and herbal teas of Camellia sinensis,”  National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), Oct. 2011
  8. Bragg K. et al.,“Hordeolum,”  National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 19 Aug. 2021
Melody Huang is an optometrist and freelance health writer. Through her writing, Dr. Huang enjoys educating patients on how to lead healthier and happier lives. She also has an interest in Eastern medicine practices and learning about integrative medicine. When she’s not working, Dr. Huang loves reviewing new skin care products, trying interesting food recipes, or hanging with her adopted cats.
Vincent Ayaga is a medical researcher and experienced content writer with a bachelor's degree in Medical Microbiology. His areas of special interest include disease investigation, prevention, and control strategies. Vincent's mission is to create awareness of visual problems and evidence-based solutions shaping the world of ophthalmology. He believes that ophthalmic education offered through research has a greater impact among knowledge seekers.
https://www.visioncenter.org/author/vince/
Author: Vince Ayaga  | UPDATED June 17, 2022
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Medical reviewer: Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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