A stye is a small, painful lump (cyst) on the inside or outside of the eyelid.
As styes are usually caused by a bacterial infection, doctors sometimes refer to them as infected eyelid cysts.
The medical name for a stye is a hordeolum.
Styes usually affect one eye, but it's possible to get them in both eyes or to have more than one stye in the same eye. Your vision shouldn't be affected.
This topic covers:
The main symptoms of a stye are:
Styes often get better without treatment, particularly after they burst and releasepus.
Don't try to burst the stye yourself. Go to see your GP if you have a stye that's very painful with a very swollen eyelid (see below).
There are two general types of stye:
Styes are usually caused by a staphylococcal infection . Staphylococcus bacteria often live on the skin without causing any harm.
A stye on the outside of your eyelid may be caused by an infection of:
Internal styes can occur when the meibomian glands become infected. These glands are found on the eyelids andproduce an oily liquid, which makes up part of the tear film that covers your eye.
If the meibomian glands become blocked, a cyst can develop, which can become infected (see below).
Eyelash follicle infectionscan sometimes be a complication of blepharitis . Symptoms of blepharitis include:
Blepharitis can be a complication of rosacea (a skin condition that mainly affects the face).
Most styes get better without treatment within one to three weeks. In the meantime, the treatments below should help ease your symptoms.
A warm compress is a cloth or flannel warmed with hot water that can be held against the affected eye.
Be careful not to use water that's too hot, particularly on children.
The warmth of the compress will encourage the stye to release any pus, which will drain away. After this, your symptoms should quicklyimprove.
You should also keep the area around your eye clean and free from crusting.
Regularly using warm compresses as part of your daily routine can also help prevent styes forming in the first place.
If your stye is very painful,over-the-counterpainkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen , may help ease the pain.
Always read the manufacturer's instructions to ensure the medication is suitable for you and that you take the correct dose. Don't give aspirin to children under 16 years of age.
If you have another eye condition that's making your stye worse, your GP may prescribe separate medication for this or recommenda different course of treatment.
For example, if you have:
Antibiotics aren't recommended for treating styes because there's little evidence they're effective, and styes usually get better on their own.
See your GP if you've tried the above measures and your stye hasn't got better.
Don't try to remove the eyelash or burst the stye yourself.
Your GP may refer you to an ophthalmologist (a specialist in diagnosing and treating eye conditions) if you have a meibomian cyst (a cyst on the inside of your eyelid) that's particularly large or painful.
The ophthalmologist may make an incision in the cyst to drain out any pus.
Complications of styes are uncommon and they're rarely serious.
Meibomian cysts (chalazions)tend to be painless unless they become infected. If they do, you may need antibiotics (usually an eye ointment).
Applying a warm compress (see above) to the cyst should help bring it down, although most cysts disappear by themselves.
Rarely, if the cyst doesn't disappear, it can be surgically removed under local anaesthetic (where the affected area is numbed).
If the infection spreads to the tissues around your eye it can cause preseptal cellulitis .
This is an infection in the layers of skin around the eye. It can make your eyelids red and swollen and is usually treated with antibiotics.