A stye is an acute infection or inflammation of the secretory glands of the eyelids.
This common infection or inflammation results from blocked glands within the eyelid. When the gland is blocked, the oil produced by the gland occasionally backs up and extrudes through the wall of the gland, forming a lump, which can be red, painful, and nodular. Frequently, bacteria can infect the blocked gland, causing increased inflammation, pain, and redness of the eye and even redness of the surrounding eyelid and cheek tissue.
The lump can point externally (outward) or internally (inward). Frequently, the lump appears with a visible whitish or yellowish spot that looks much like a large pimple. Usually, one obvious area of swelling is apparent on one lid, but many styes can appear on one or both eyelids simultaneously.
The lump frequently goes away when the blockage of the gland opening is relieved. Furthermore, the infection goes away when the pus is drained from the stye.
Styes are usually caused by obstructed orifices (or openings) of the oil glands in the eyelid. Very frequently, they are infected by bacteria, most commonly staphylococcal bacteria.
Seborrhea (excessive oily discharge from the glands) may increase the likelihood of developing one of these infections. Certain factors can contribute to the blockage of the glands:
- Improper or incomplete removal of eye makeup
- Use of outdated or infected cosmetics
- Poor eyelid hygiene
- Inflammatory diseases of the eyelid, such as blepharitis, meibomianitis, and rosacea.
- Hormonal changes
- A lump on the top or bottom eyelid
- Localized swelling of the eyelid
- Tenderness to touch
- Crusting of the eyelid margins
- Burning in the eye
- Droopiness of the eyelid
- Scratchy sensation on the eyeball
- Blurred vision
- Mucous discharge in the eye
When to Seek Medical Care
Sometimes, complications may occur from a seemingly innocent problem. Seek urgent medical opinion if any of the following problems occur:
- The eye is swollen shut.
- Redness appears around the entire eye.
- You have any change or disturbance in your vision.
- Swelling lasts for more than 3 weeks.
- The stye or styes come back or bleed.
- Your eyelashes fall out.
- The stye is on the bottom eyelid, near the nose.
- The white part of the eye becomes red.
- Pus or thick discharge continues to drain from the eye.
- You have a fever higher than 100.5°F.
- You have excessive persistent tearing.
- You have persistent redness of the surface of the eye.
- You have significant pain.
- The stye recurs, especially if the stye does so in the same location as a previous stye.
- You have swelling of the lymph nodes in your neck.
- You experience double vision.
Self-Care at Home
- Most styes go away on their own in 5-7 days.
- Apply warm compresses 4-6 times a day for about 15 minutes at a time to help the drainage. Keep your eyes closed.
- Gently scrub the eyelid with tap water or with a mild, nonirritating soap or shampoo (such as baby shampoo). This may help with drainage. Close your eyes as you scrub so you do not injure your eyes.
- Do not squeeze or puncture the sty. A more serious infection may occur as a result.
- Discontinue the use of eye makeup as well as eye lotions and creams because they may be infected.
- Discontinue wearing your contact lenses because the sty may cause an infection to spread to your cornea with the continued use of your contact lenses.
- Good hand and facial washing may prevent styes from forming or coming back.
- Upon awakening, application of a warm washcloth to the eyelids for 1-2 minutes may be beneficial in decreasing the occurrence of styes by liquefying the contents of the oil glands of the eyelid and thereby preventing blockage.
- All cosmetics and cosmetic tools should be kept clean and protected from the environment. Do not share makeup or eye cosmetic tools, such as eyelash curlers. Makeup should be thrown away when it becomes old or contaminated.