You may have had a stye (sty) at some point in your life and not realized it. Styes can happen easily if you wear makeup around your eyes or if you don’t wash your face often. A stye is an infection along your eyelid caused by bacteria. You may notice a small, red bump near the edge of your eyelid that may even look like a pimple. This infection happens right at the base of an eyelash or in one of the small oil glands you have. Studies show that most people have the bacteria that causes styes. Changing one simple habit may stop you from getting styes or prevent them from happening at all. Find out what that habit is and what treatments there are to help a stye go away!
You may have had a stye at some point or another and not known it. However, you may have noticed that you have a red, swollen area on one of your eyelids. This inflamed, swollen area is small, but that is the stye that we are talking about. This is a swollen area on the edge of your eyelid that can be a small spot or it can make half of your eyelid swollen. Sometimes this area is very hot and tender to the touch, whereas other times it simply looks bad but isn’t painful. Some patients will think that they have a pimple on their eyelid, as a stye can sometimes have pus accompanied with the other mentioned symptoms.
This is because a stye is caused by a bacterial infection of the gland at the base of your eyelash. Bacteria gets in the gland and your body’s immune response is to have that area swell and become inflamed as it tries to get rid of the infection. A stye is sometimes written “sty” or it is referred to as a “hordeolum”. All are the same condition. There are two different types of styes, which are internal and external. An internal stye is one that is inside your eyelid. This is caused by an infection in one of the oil-producing glands in your eyes. An external stye is at the base of one of your eyelashes and is caused by an infection in the hair follicle. It’s these external ones that generally look like a pimple. You never want to pop these though, as they are not pimples and your body is trying to get rid of that infection. You can make it worse by trying to “pop” it.
Styes can actually be something called a “chalazion”. They are very similar, but a chalazion is generally larger in size and can cause you blurry vision. Patients will usually start with a stye, which stays small, red and swollen. However, if that area grows much larger (say your whole eyelid), then you are dealing with a chalazion. This is when an oil gland in your eyelid clogs up, just like a stye. The difference is simply the size and the amount of pain you feel, as a chalazion can grow to be the size of a marble or larger. It usually is not very painful, however, like a stye can be.
We mentioned that a stye is a bacterial infection. You tend to get styes because you spread bacteria from one part of your face to your eyes. This happens often if you blow or wipe your nose and then touch your eyes. So, the best way to get rid of a stye or to not get one in the first place is to always keep your hands clean. If you blow your nose a lot (especially during allergy season), make sure you wash your hands right after. You can avoid many eye problems by simply not touching your eyes.
If you get a stye, it will stick around for several days to a week. To make it go away faster, clean your eyelids. You can do this by using baby shampoo or a tear-free soap mixed with warm water. Use a cotton pad or cotton ball to clean the area and to rinse and dry it. However, there are pre-moistened eyelid cleansing pads that do exist that you can buy over-the-counter. Avoiding using makeup will also help it go away faster. Discard any makeup that is old and avoid putting products on your eyes that you don’t need to be using. If your stye is painful, a clean, warm compress can help decrease swelling and pain as well as an over-the-counter painkiller such as acetaminophen.
If you have a painful, swollen lump on your eye that doesn’t go away after a week, go see your eye doctor. When you first get a stye, you can also call us if it is especially large or painful. No matter what your eye problem is, we’ve probably seen it before and will know exactly how to help you. To keep your eyes healthy from year to year, make sure you are seeing us often for comprehensive eye exams. These will help ensure that your eyes are staying healthy. For all your eye health needs, call Optical Masters today at (303) 377-0752!