If you’ve ever had an eye stye, you know how painful and bothersome they can be. While there’s no way to get rid of it overnight, home remedies can reduce swelling and promote faster healing.
This article explains the 8 best stye remedies to increase your comfort and help a stye drain naturally. It also covers when to see a doctor for professional medical treatment and how to prevent future styes from developing.
What are Styes?
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 on its own within a few weeks. However, you may need medical assistance to drain it if it persists.
How Do Eye Styes Develop?
The eyelids contain numerous oil glands, especially around the eyelashes. Dirt, oil buildup, and dead skin cells can block these glands, creating an ideal environment for bacterial infection.
During the first stage of stye development, your eyelids will appear red and tender to the touch.
Research shows that most styes are caused by two bacterial species:2
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Staphylococcus epidermidis
Are Styes Contagious?
Yes, styes are contagious. The bacteria from the stye can transfer to other skin areas and cause breakouts. However, the risk of a stye spreading to another person is extremely low.
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
- A gritty feeling in the eyes
- Crusting along the infected eyelid
8 Best Treatments for a Stye
Below are the eight 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 use a mild soap and be gentle. You can use a cotton swab to avoid touching your eyelid.
Different cleaning formulas and mild shampoos are designed to work against common eyelid bacteria. Look for a mild natural soap that contains tea tree oil or a tear-free baby shampoo. A saline solution is another good option.
An effective saline solution is a mixture of sodium chloride (salt) and water.5 It can help clean styes, promote drainage, and destroy bacteria cells.
3. Take Pain Medications
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications can help relieve pain due to stye formation.6 Common options include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.
If you experience severe and prolonged pain, contact your doctor.
4. Avoid Wearing Makeup
Don’t wear makeup while you have a stye. Eye makeup acts as a breeding ground for bacteria.
When you have a stye, you can transfer bacteria from your makeup brushes to your eyes, worsening the infection. It also increases the risk of spreading bacteria to the other eye.
5. Don’t Wear Contact Lenses
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 bacteria.
6. 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 buying any ointments, ensure they're safe to use around the eyes.
7. Use Warm Tea Bags
Warm tea bags are another way to use a warm compress on infected eyes. Green and black tea work best because they have antibacterial properties.7
To use this method effectively, put hot water in a mug and drop a tea bag in it. Let it stand for about a minute, then remove it from the water and allow it to cool.
Once it cools enough not to burn your eyes, place the warm tea bag 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.
8. Light Massages
Gently massage the affected eye to promote drainage. Remember to wash your hands before touching 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 Doctor
You should see a doctor 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
- The infection spreads around the eye area (preseptal cellulitis)
- Redness in the cheeks or face (spreading infection)
Your doctor will identify a stye by looking at it. They may use a light and a magnifying device to examine the infected area.
Professional Stye Treatment
A stye doesn't always require treatment, but applying warm compresses can speed up healing. 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 might prescribe oral antibiotics in tablet or pill form if your eyelid infection persists or 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 eye makeup before bedtime to avoid clogged eye follicles
- Replacing your makeup every 6 months to prevent bacterial growth
- Not rubbing your eyes if you have allergies
- Exploring relaxation techniques to relieve stress
- Using a gentle eyelid wash to keep your eyelids clean
- Trying a warm compress to remove oil that may clog up your eyelid follicles
Common Questions About Styes
What is the fastest way to cure a stye?
Applying warm compresses to the affected eye will help a stye drain and speed up healing. Soak a clean washcloth in warm water and hold it over your closed eye. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes, three to six times daily, until the stye disappears.
How long will a style last?
A style can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Is saline solution good for styes?
You can use saline solution to clean your eyelid if you have a stye. The saline will help reduce bacteria and promote drainage.
A stye (hordeolum) is a red, painful bump that develops on the edge of your upper or lower eyelid due to clogged eyelid follicles.
A stye usually goes away within 7 to 10 days of home treatment. You shouldn’t wear contacts or eye makeup while you have a stye. Home remedies include warm compresses with a washcloth or warm tea bag and maintaining good eye hygiene.
If your stye persists, spreads rapidly, or is accompanied by severe pain, bleeding, and visual distortion, you may need medical assistance. Professional treatments include antibiotic therapy to prevent bacteria growth and surgery to drain the pus.
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