What Is a Stye?

A stye is an inflamed oil gland on the upper or lower eyelid at the base of the eyelashes, where the lash meets the lid. It appears as a red, swollen bump that looks like a pimple and may be tender to the touch. Styes are caused when staphylococcal bacteria living on the surface of the eyelid becomes trapped, causing an infection that results in a bump on the eyelid, soreness and redness of the area.

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Although styes are caused by bacteria, they can be triggered by poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, bad hygiene, lack of water or rubbing of the eyes. They are one of several conditions that fall under the medical name blepharitis, a common condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids.

Styes that don’t improve over time may develop scar tissue around the inflamed gland, leaving a bump called a chalazion. A chalazion is usually a firm, painless lump that becomes infected will be painful and red.

How Are Styes Diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose a stye by looking at it.

How Are Styes Treated?

Most styes heal within a week on their own or with treatment. To treat a stye at home, apply a warm, wet cloth to the area for 10 minutes four times a day. Do not squeeze a stye; let it drain or subside on its own. Do not use contact lenses or wear eye makeup until the area has healed.

See a doctor if:

  • You have problems with your vision
  • The stye worsens or doesn't improve within a week of self-care
  • The bump becomes very large or painful
  • You have crusting or scaling of the eyelids
  • You are very sensitive to light
  • The stye bleeds

If the stye is infected, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream or open the stye to drain it. As a last resort, ophthalmologists surgically remove styes that do not respond to treatment. With adequate treatment, styes tend to heal quickly and without complications.

Contact Us

The Robert Cizik Eye Clinic
Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza
6400 Fannin Street, 18th Floor
Houston, TX 77030
Phone: (713) 486-9460
Office Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
A physician is on call 24/7.

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