What is a stye?
A stye occurs when a particular strain of bacteria affects the oil gland of the eyelid. It becomes infected and causes inflammation, redness, as well as pain on the eyelid and its surrounding tissues. A stye is an inflamed swelling or circumscribed abscess. It can be treated with many home remedies, antibiotic ointments, tablets or pills, topical cream, and if required, through surgery.
It resembles a swollen red bump or a pimple. A stye is also known as a hordeolum. Bacteria called Staphylococcus grows along the edge of the eyelid, and the small painful bump gets filled with pus. Most styes are not contagious and do not spread along the eyelid. However, it is possible to get more than one stye at the same time.
How It Develops
When dead skin, dirt, or oil accumulates in the oil gland along the edge of the eyelid, bacteria start to grow inside of it, which causes a stye. However, a stye may also develop under the eyelid since there is a gland opening there. This type of stye is known as an internal hordeolum.
Causes of Stye
- Bacteria - If the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus gets into the oil gland, it can cause a stye. It invades the meibomian gland and causes internal styes or the glands of Zeis, which leads to external styes.
- Trapped oil - On the lining of the eyelid are tiny ducts, which produce an oily substance. This helps in the lubrication of the eye and prevents the evaporation of tears. Sometimes, the gland can get blocked. To clean out the blocked oil, the body may mount an immune response, which may cause a stye-like lump called chalazion.
- Poor hygiene - Not washing off eye makeup at night may result in a stye. Makeup, dirt, and oil are accumulated and may block the glands and cause an infection. Touching the eyes with unwashed hands may cause the bacteria to spread to the eyelids. Hence, always wash your face and hands regularly and do not touch your eyes until your hands are clean.
- Stress - When we are stressed, we may not wash our face as often we should do, and fatigue may cause us to rub our eyes frequently. Stress can also weaken the immune system and make our body susceptible to infections including the ones that can cause a stye.
- Dry eyes - Certain medications such as decongestants, hereditary condition, staring at the computer for longer periods of time can cause dry eyes. When our eyes do not make enough tears to clean our eyes from impurities, styes may develop.
Symptoms of a Stye
The early symptoms of a stye are mild. Generally, these symptoms are known to cause slight discomfort or redness along the eyelash line. They may also cause irritation to the affected eye.
Other symptoms may include:
- A red bump, which resembles a pimple that is seen along the edge of the eyelid and close to the eyelashes
- Presence of a tiny yellow spot in the middle of the bump
- A feeling as though something is in the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Discharge from eye or crustiness along the eyelid
- Excessive production of tears
A chalazion leads to similar symptoms, but the lump is usually painless and hard.
When to See a Doctor
Usually, a stye is known to go away on its own in days' or weeks' time with the help of warm compresses. However, if a stye persists or if it recurs despite treatment, then it is best to consult a doctor.
Visit a doctor if you have the following conditions:
- A stye that gets worse
- Bleeding in the affected eye
- Vision problems
- Discoloration of the white portion of the eye
- Redness in the cheeks or other parts of the face
Styes can be easily treated at home. The following measures will minimize its duration and also prevent its recurrence:
- Regular handwashing - By washing your hands regularly, particles are prevented from being rubbed into the eye. This prevents clogging the glands and the development of styes. Moreover, irritation of an existing stye is reduced. Individuals who use contact lenses should thoroughly wash their hands when taking out or putting their lenses. Touching the eye should be avoided, so that bacteria will not spread to the eye and around it.
- Don’t pop - If the stye is squeezed or popped, it can release pus, which will further spread the infection. Let the stye drain naturally.
- Keep your eyelids clean - When the glands on the eyelids get clogged, styes usually develop. Hence, keeping your eyelids clean can prevent the formation of a new stye and also heal the existing one. A mild and chemical-free soap should be used to gently wash your face and eye area.
- Hot spoon bathing - To do hot spoon bathing, prepare a bowl of boiling water and a wooden spoon with a flannel wrapped around it. Dip the spoon into the hot water. Hold the spoon close to the affected eye but not touching the eyelid. The steam that comes from the hot spoon tends to draw the heat from the stye and minimizes inflammation. This is an old, but reliable method for relieving a stye.
- Warm compresses - A simple warm compress is one of the most effective treatments for styes. A clean washcloth should be soaked in warm water. Apply the warm washcloth to the affected area for at least 15 minutes. Do this a couple of times each day until the stye is gone. The washcloth should remain warm during its application to encourage the stye to release or drain any pus. The area around the eye should be clean and free from crusts. Warm compresses improve the circulation to the eyelid and help fight infections. The warmth of the water encourages the blood vessels to increase in size, which causes white blood cells to flow in that area. White blood cells are natural fighters of infection and are helpful in getting rid of infections caused by styes.
- Tea bag compress - This method is similar to warm compresses. However, the warm washcloth is replaced with a tea bag. Green tea is the best option since it has antibacterial properties.
- Cool moisture - Cool moisture can help bring discomfort and reduce the inflammation. The most effective and simplest method to minimize stye irritation is by using cucumber slices. Slice a cucumber and place a slice on each eye for at least 10 minutes.
Fast Home Remedies
- Coriander seed wash - Coriander has antibacterial properties, which can help heal a stye. Brew coriander tea using coriander seeds. Once the tea has cooled down, use it to clean your eyes.
- Alum - Mix 2 or 3 granules of alum in a cup of water. This alum water can be used to wash your eyes.
- Potatoes - To reduce swelling, make a potato paste and spread it on a cloth. Externally apply it to the inflamed eyes.
- Turmeric - Turmeric is known to provide relief from styes. Boil two cups of water and add one teaspoon of turmeric. Boil it until the solution is reduced to half of its original amount. Strain it through a fine gauze to remove the turmeric granules. Use the remaining liquid as eye drops to be applied 2-3 times a day to relieve a stye.
- Guava - To get rid of swelling and irritation, heat guava leaves and place them on a warm damp cloth. Apply this compress to your eyes.
- Mint leaf - Crush mint leaves and apply it on a stye. Leave it for five minutes and then rinse it with warm water.
- Chard leaf - Wash chard leaves and heat them with a little water. Strain the liquid. When the liquid cools down, apply it to the affected area and keep your eyelids closed for half an hour. Continue doing this remedy until the stye disappears.
- Calendula - Prepare one tablespoon of dried petals in 250 ml of water to make a calendula infusion. Strain the liquid by using a gauze and then apply it to the affected area for three times a day.
- Aloe vera - Apply the aloe vera gel using a cotton swab on the affected area several times a day. Aloe vera has amazing healing properties and will help heal the stye in no time. You can also cut one aloe vera leaf lengthwise and apply the pulp to the affected area. An eye pad soaked in aloe vera juice can also be applied to the eyes.
- Acacia leaf - Boil a handful of acacia leaves in one cup of water. Let the water cool down. With the help of a soaked washcloth, apply it as a compress on the affected eye. Leave it on for 10 minutes to reduce the pain.
- Cloves - Soak two cloves in warm water and use this water to gently massage the area around the eyes. Do this for five minutes and then wash your eyes with clean water.
- Spinach - Heat spinach leaves in warm water and use them as an herbal poultice. Place them on the affected area for 30 minutes. Do this three times a day until the stye goes away.
- Parsley - For this remedy, you need boiling water and parsley. Leave a handful of parsley in boiling water for 10 minutes. Soak a clean washcloth in this water and put it on your eyes for 15 minutes. Repeat this remedy twice a day.
- Baby shampoo - Mix tear-free shampoo with water. Dip a clean washcloth in this solution and gently wipe it on your eyelids. This process can be repeated daily to clean the stye.
- Eye exercises - Perform eye exercises such as moving the eyes gently up and down, from side to side, clockwise, counterclockwise, and in semicircles. This will help eliminate tension and will relax the surrounding tissues of the eyes.
- Castor oil - It has been used for hundreds of years as a medicine. Castor oil has antibacterial properties that can help get rid of styes. Castor oil should be applied on and around the affected eye 2-3 times a day. Follow up with a warm compress for around 15 minutes for a soothing relief.
- Raspberry leaves - These are very effective in treating styes. Crush them and boil them for 10 minutes. Strain the solution and wash your eyes using this water. Raspberry tea bags can be used to cover your eyes, too.
- Painkillers - A couple of over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used if the stye is painful. These medications can help ease the pain.
- Antibiotics - Topical antibiotics can be applied if the stye becomes infected or does not respond to home remedies. These medications can help the stye to heal faster. The doctor might also recommend antibiotics in tablet or pill form to treat the infection.
- Steroid injection - To reduce swelling or inflammation, the doctor can also prescribe a dose of steroid injections.
- Surgery - A surgical removal may be needed if the stye affects your vision, although this is rare. In this procedure, the doctor will inject a numbing medicine around the affected area and make a little opening in the stye to drain the accumulated pus or fluid. This will help heal and relieve the pain and swelling in your eye. Large and painful styes can be successfully drained by medical professionals to relieve pressure.
Although complications are quite rare, the infection can spread to other eyelash follicles, which will lead to multiple styes. One of the most common complications that develop from a stye is a chalazion. A chalazion can deform the eye and interfere with one's vision, causing a cosmetic problem.
Other complications include:
- Blepharitis - The spread of infection to the eyelids.
- Periorbital or orbital cellulitis - The spread of infection to other tissues of the affected area.
- Deformity or growth disruption of the eyelashes - Deformity may occur if there is an improper drainage of the stye.
- Systemic infection - Although quite rare, a stye may progress into a systemic infection.
- Wash your hands - Use soap and water to wash your hands or use a sanitizer several times a day. Keep your hands away from your eyes during the infection stage.
- Get rid of expired cosmetics - Throw away old cosmetics and do not share them with others. Moreover, do not leave eye makeup overnight.
- Keep contact lenses clean - Wash your hands thoroughly before handling contact lenses. Follow the doctor’s advice on disinfecting them.
- Apply warm compresses - Using a warm compress will help prevent a stye from recurring.
- Manage blepharitis - If you have blepharitis (eyelid inflammation), consult a doctor and follow his or her instructions and prescription.
Generally, it takes a few days to a few weeks for the stye to heal since the clogged gland has to drain out. It is also common for an infection to set in. At this point, medical treatment is needed and recovery lasts longer. If the person has an underlying condition such as meibomitis, then this condition should be treated first to get rid of recurring stye episodes.
Physicians will take into consideration the lifestyle and supplementation of the person to improve the production of oil substances as well as reduce the effects of any other condition that might contribute to stye development.