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What Causes Styes on eyelids?

Stye is a painful lump that is visible either on your upper or lower eyelid. The Stye-causing bacteria that live on the surface of your eyelashes cause a red, swollen lump. This bacteria blocks the oil gland which leads to swelling or “stye”. Often, dead skin cells and germs get trapped in your eyelash follicle that can cause stye as well.

Most of the time, whenever you see something like a pimple next to your eyelash, you need to be careful since it could soon turn into a reddish lump known as stye. Constant stress and lack of sleep could cause this. Also, if you do not maintain proper eye hygiene, such as not removing your eye makeup, it could lead to styes. A chronic inflammatory skin condition known as blepharitis can also cause it.

Tip of the day

If you feel like you suffered to long and want to resolve your stye issue faster, we recommend trying this Lubricant Eye Ointment out. It’s dual-action formula provides symptomatic stye relief and lubrication to help prevent further irritation of the eye.

Are eye styes serious?

Eye styles can give you prolonged sensations of pain, and at times you can experience blurry vision and a constant sensation of tears. If it is an internal stye, you might even experience slight chills or fever. Most people get only one stye at a time. But if you get more than one at a time, it could be chronic. Chronic and frequent styes can cause an overgrowth of stye all over your eye tissue and require urgent medical attention. It is usually caused due to the bacterium staphylococcus. It could lead to a serious condition known as staph blepharitis.

Types of Styes

Internal stye: 

When there is a bacterial infection inside the meibomian gland of your eye, it causes swollen lumps known as an internal stye. Meibomian glands are sebaceous glands that help in the proper lubrication of the eyes by secreting an oily layer. They are often more severe as compared to an external stye.

Some of the symptoms of an internal stye are:

  • Excessive tears

  • Crusty layer around the affected eye

  • Enhanced light sensitivity

  • A feeling of something big stuck in the eye

  • Pain, tenderness, or swelling around the eyelid.

  • Flushed skin

External stye: 

When the Glands of Zeis and/or Glands of Moll inside your eyelids get infected, it causes a rubbery lump known as an external stye. The Zies gland is a sebaceous gland in your eyelash follicles. They secrete an oily substance to prevent your eyelashes from drying out. The moll gland, also known as an apocrine gland is a type of sweat gland. They are not so severe due to their superficial nature and heal faster.

Some of the symptoms of an external stye are:

  • Burning sensation

  • Entire eyelid swells

  • Constant itching and blurry vision

  • Closed eyelid

  • Blinking discomfort

  • Benign eyelid lesions

  • Mucus-like discharge from the eyes

  • Eyelid drainage

  • Eyelid pain and redness

  • Black skin around the eyes

How long do eye styes last?

Normally styes last for three to seven days but in certain serious conditions, they can last for a week or two. You can heal your stye faster by applying warm compresses with hot water using a squeaky clean washcloth for ten to fifteen minutes about three to four times a day regularly. This will relieve you from some of the pain and will transfer it to your forehead as a pimple. Mostly, styes open and drain themselves to heal automatically. But in serious conditions, styes need to be drained using medical surgery.

Are eye styes contagious?

Styes are not contagious, but it is possible to transfer the staphylococci bacteria from the infected person to a healthy person. But this transmission does not happen simply through the air. Only if the infected person after touching his eyes touches the eye of a healthy person, the transmission occurs.

Can styes be prevented?

Yes, styes are preventable if you follow a few simple things in your daily life. They are:

  • Don’t touch or rub your eyes too often. If you have problems like itchiness, allergy, hay fever, etc. take medication.

  • Never use disposable contacts. Improper contact lens hygiene can cause styes. Clean contact lenses, keep them disinfected at all times and stop touching contacts with unwashed hands. Washing hands with soap and warm water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer before touching your contacts is a healthy practice to maintain contact lens hygiene.

  • If you are suffering from any skin conditions like ocular rosacea eye stye, blepharitis, or seborrheic dermatitis, treat them as soon as possible.

  • Do not use expired contact, and do not go to sleep wearing your contact lenses.

  • Take care with cosmetics. Ditch all your old makeup, especially eye makeup to avoid risk for styes. Old cosmetics are ground for bacteria. Replace the mascara that you wear every single day in every three months. Throw out the mascara you wear occasionally every six months. Replace your liquid eyeliner every six months and your solid eye pencil every two to three years.

  • Never fall asleep without completely washing off your eye makeup. Residue from the makeup can easily clog the pores of your eyelid gland and cause eye-related skin infections.

  • Every time you wash your face with water, make sure to gently wash your entire eyelid as well to prevent the accumulation of debris in your eyelash follicles’ oil glands. Do not use excess water to avoid pressure.

  • Use a cotton swab or an applicator to clean the margin of your eyelid to prevent the risk of eyelash follicles accumulating oil or bacteria. But make sure to not touch your eye. You can also use pre-medicated eyelid wipes to get rid of dead skin or dry skin from your eyelid and eyelashes. There are several eyelid washes available in the market such as avenova, ocusoft eyelid scrubs, hypochlor spray and gel, cliradex, etc that you can use.

  • Try to relax more often. Our stressed bodies release a hormone known as cortisol which causes a risk of styes. You cannot avoid stress in the modern lifestyle but try to destress whenever you can. You can go for several mind relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), meditation, etc.

  • Every day before bedtime, go for warm compresses on your eye. Soak a washcloth in warm water and hold it over your eyes. You can apply a topical erythromycin ointment after the heat session. You can even find some of these compresses in the medical shop that you can easily heat in the microwave. But be very careful to protect your eye skin and eyelash closest to the eye from burns.

What happens if you leave a stye untreated?

When you leave a stye untreated for a longer period, it can lead to the formation of a chalazion. The lump is almost the size of a pea. It is caused due to the thickening of the fluid in the oil glands of your eyes. You will experience mild irritation and frequent tearing. An unhealed internal hordeolum caused due to improper care is mostly the cause behind an infectious chalazion.

Do eye drops help styes?

Antibiotic eye drops are not that effective a remedy for styes. Counter antibiotic creams heal a stye much faster. Painkillers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can temporarily ease the pain but is not a long-term solution.

How do I get rid of a stye overnight?

Getting a red of a stye overnight can be difficult. However, if you follow these tips you might get rid of them gradually :

  • Using a warm tea bag: Black tea has some amazing anti-bacterial and anti-swelling properties. You can pour some hot water into a mug and soak a tea bag in it for about a minute. Once the tea bag cools, you can place it over your eyelids for about five to ten minutes. It will reduce your discomfort to a great extent.

  • Use antibiotic ointments: There are so many OTC antibiotic ointments available in the market that you can apply on your eyelid inflammation to kill the staphylococcal bacteria. Some of them are Similasan stye eye relief, Eye Lid Relief PM, etc. Topical steroids have side effects so it is best to avoid them.

  • Massage the area around your stye: You can use lip wipes to massage the area around your styes. You can even do that with your sanitized hands. Once the fluid drains out, don’t touch the area and keep the skin clean. Don’t massage if it hurts.

  • Don’t wear makeup or contact lenses: If you already have a stye, make sure to not irritate your eyes even further with products. Your makeup tools will only spread the infection and delay the healing. Also, your contacts can get infected with chlorine-resistant bacteria and cause contact lens-related infection. So switch to normal glasses or clean contacts frequently.

  • Clean your eyelids often: You can use diluted tear-free baby shampoos or makeup remover pads to keep your eye clean from any type of bacteria. Even a pre-moistened eyelid cleansing pad stops bacterial infections.

Will rubbing a stye make it worse?

You should avoid rubbing your eyes at all costs when you are suffering from a stye. Never try to rub, squeeze, pop, or scratch a stye. It will make the condition far more worse and serious. Your eyelid can get injured or wounded if you do so and cause severe complications. Some of the consequences can be:

  • The bacterial infections can spread to other parts of your eye or eyelid.

  • The infection inside the stye can increase.

  • A dark, pigmented patch or scar can appear on your eyelid.

  • A hardening or extra bump can develop on your eyelid.

  • A scar that looks almost like a pit or a hole can appear on your eyelid.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP?

At this moment due to the pandemic situation, seeking medical care can be difficult. However, NHS services have been made safer to ensure protection from covid 19. You can now get medical help or prescriptions online or even over the phone. You can get all the related information on the NHS website. If you think you might require a surgical operation for your stye, you need not go for the surgery in person anymore due to the covid 19 situation. You can instead get in touch with your GP by:

  1. Checking your GP surgery’s website. Most of them offer online services so that you can get access to reliable support and advice from the GP surgery team.

  2. Booking an audio or video call session with a nurse, doctors, GP, or other healthcare professionals. However, you might need to wait for a longer duration.

  3. Using online apps and services that are linked to your GP surgery. Many pharmacies have an online repeat prescription service. You can either order the medicines from the internet or over a video call.

What is the best medicine for stye?

Usually, styes get healed by applying eyelid washes and solutions like Lomb Eye Wash or Bausch or medicated pads like Ocusoft Lid Scrub. But if the stye takes too long to heal, your eye doctor might recommend antibiotic treatment. Topical antibiotic creams, gels, and drops are usually not that effective. So the prescription stye medicine is usually oral medication, and more effective drugs like erythromycin, tetracycline, doxycycline, amoxicillin, cephalosporin, etc.

Though the stye usually gets healed after two weeks of medication, completing the full prescribed cycle of ten days is advised. In most severe complications, ophthalmologists can speed up your healing process by performing an incision to drain out the bacteria, oil, and pus.


Our eye is one of the most vital organs in our body. We need to take regular and effective care of this sensitive organ. Your eye is prone to infections very easily and so you should make it a point to clean your eyes regularly and maintain eye hygiene. Infections like styes can have long-term implications so try to include practices in your daily routine that prevent styes.


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