How to get rid of a stye

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Have you ever had one of those pimple-like bumps that forms a crusty material on your lids and lashes? They are mildly inconvenient at best and a painful nuisance at worst. 

Some people ride it out and wait for it to disappear. However, if you have it and are looking to get rid of it stat, then read on to find out more. 

What is a stye?

A stye is a red bump that forms on the outside edge of the eyelid. It is the result of a blocked gland located on the eye. It is only contagious through direct contact. The word “stye” can also be spelled “sty.”

In most cases, the stye drains material from the gland’s opening which causes the accumulation of a thick discharge on the eyelid.  Pus oozes out through a break in the skin and the eye waters as a reaction to the irritation and pain. 

Types of styes

There are two types of styes:

  • Hordeolum: a blockage on a sweat gland under an eyelid and the base of eyelashes 
  • Chalazion: a blockage of an oil gland called meibomian gland, which forms inside the eyelid

Symptoms of a stye

Here are tell-tale signs you have a stye:

  • foreign body sensation in the eye when you blink
  • pressure in the eye
  • presence of a lump or bump on the edge of or inside the eyelid
  • redness and swelling of the skin overlying the bump
  • blurred vision from the formation and spreading of thick sebum or pus over the surface of the eye

What causes styes in your eye?

A stye on the eyelid is caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria that come into contact with your eyelid through your contact lenses or your hands when you rub your eyes. Dead skin, dirt, or oil build-up can clog the many tiny oil glands around the eyelashes resulting to the formation of these red, angry bumps that are tender to the touch.

Styes can also develop from leaving on your eye makeup overnight while you sleep or from using old eye makeup.

Are styes caused by stress?

There is no direct link between stress and styes. Generally speaking, a stye is caused by bacterial infections and has nothing to do with being stressed. However, if you have recurring styes that appear during periods of stress or poor sleep, this can be attributed to these two factors raising the risk of styes. 

This is due to the fact that stress weakens your immune system. When we are overworked, our body excretes certain chemicals and hormones that are believed to bring on styes and pimples.

To reduce occurrence of styes, you must do what you can to minimize your stress levels and sugar intake since high level of sucrose encourages bacterial infections. You can also find out about your recurring styes by consulting with your retina specialist. 

How long does it take for a stye to heal?

A stye on the eye usually goes away on its own within 7 to 10 days. The swelling lasts about 3 days, and it will eventually break open and drain.

How to get rid of stye

A sty doesn’t require specific treatment, but for persisting ones you may do the following:

  • Apply warm compress. Try a teabag or washcloth. 
  • Use a cleansing pad or mild soap, baby shampoo and warm water to clean your eyelid. Avoid harsh, synthetic chemicals and use hypoallergenic products.
  • Pause your makeup use so as to not delay healing process. Discard old makeup or applicators that could be contaminated.
  • Stop wearing your contacts for some time. 
  • Take OTC pain medication like antibiotic eyedrops or a topical antibiotic cream. To relieve the pain, take ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 
  • Opt for surgery to relieve pressure. Your eye doctor may make a small cut in it to drain the pus or inject steroid into the lesion to speed up recovery. 

How to prevent a stye

  • Have proper eyelid hygiene like cleaning your eyelids thoroughly with warm water once a day before bedtime, especially if you wear eye makeup.
  • Toss out your makeup specifically the ones you used in the days leading up to the stye..
  • Practice good hand hygiene: Wash your hands well several times a day before you handle your contacts or rubbing your eyes. 
  • Get a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids like fish or flaxseeds and vegetables. They have properties that are anti-inflammatory and good for the function of meibomian gland (found on eyes).


Most frequent questions and answers

Don’t pop, squeeze, or touch a stye to avoid the spread of infection.  Let the warmth from the compress allow the stye to open, drain and heal on its own without causing trauma to the eyelid.

Squeezing will release pus and could increase the time it takes to heal and cause a secondary skin infection that could require prescription antibiotics to heal.

Don’t hesitate to contact your eye doctor for medical advice and possible prescription. An in-office evaluation and stye treatment may be needed if it worsens or doesn’t go away within a week or so. For stubborn red bumps, you may opt for a surgical treatment. 

Contact your dermatologist so the doctor may to treat a stye that:

  • is excessively painful
  • doesn’t start to get better in two days
  • affects your vision
  • resistant to OTC stye treatment
  • is internal
  • gets bigger
  • becomes more painful

You might want to see your eye doctor if you have a reoccurring stye as they may be a result of an underlying condition like conjunctivitis, blepharitis, or cellulitis.

Bottom line

While stress is not the direct cause of styes, it does lower your immunity which makes you more likely to develop infections like a stye.

To prevent a stye, reduce your stress levels by getting enough sleep or exercising. Keep your hands off your eyes to practice good eye hygiene habits.

Keep the area around your eyes clean, but also thoroughly cleaning your hands, contact lenses, and anything else that touches your eye. Don’t share your makeup with others and regularly replace them with new ones. See an eye doctor if the stye persists after two weeks.

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