Found a painful red lump on your eyelid? We can help.
While they are usually nothing to worry about, a stye (also known as a hordeolum) can be pretty unpleasant, sometimes causing pain and often making the sufferer feel self-conscious. After all, your eyes are not exactly an area you can keep discreetly covered.
If you’re suffering with a stye, Dr Andrew Thornber, Chief Medical Officer at Now Patient, advises on everything you need to know:
What is a stye?
If there’s a red bump somewhere on or around your eye, it’s likely you’ve got a stye.
‘Styes are small lumps which appear on the eyelids or around the eye area,’ explains Dr Thornber. ‘They look like small spots and can be filled with yellow pus. They can also be watery, but should not impair your eyesight.’
What causes a stye?
Your eyelids contain numerous tiny oil glands – especially around the eyelash area. These can sometimes get blocked, most commonly by dead skin, dirt or a build-up of oil. When this happens, it’s easy for bacteria to develop inside the oil gland – and this is where the problem begins.
‘A stye is usually caused by bacteria infecting an eyelash follicle or eyelid
How can I treat a stye?
Most of the time, styes are nothing to worry about and will disappear without any proper treatment. ‘Styes are common and should clear up on their own within a week or two,’ reassures Dr Thornber.
However, if the stye is causing you pain or irritation, Dr Thornber recommends certain steps to relieve the discomfort:
➡️ If it’s painful, take paracetamol or ibuprofen.
➡️ Avoid wearing eye make-up or to put contact lenses in, until the stye has gone.
➡️ Try to reduce the swelling by soaking your eye carefully with a cloth bathed in tepid water. Press the cloth onto the stye/eye area for five to 10 minutes, and repeat this around four times a day.
❗️ You don’t normally need to consult your GP, but if the stye is causing severe pain, affecting your vision and/or doesn’t really seem to be improving, seek medical advice.
Should you burst a stye?
You should never burst a stye yourself, as this is likely to spread the infection. If your stye is affecting your vision or hasn’t cleared up within a couple of weeks, you can visit your GP, who may decide to pop the stye using a very thin, sterilised needle. But do not attempt this yourself.
How can I prevent a stye in the future?
According to Dr Thornber, the best way to prevent styes is to look after your eyes by keeping them clean. Sticking to the following hygiene routine may also help:
✅ Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your eye area.
✅ Wash your face, including the eye area, before bed each day.
✅ Remove all traces of eye make-up each day.
✅ You could regularly use an eye wash (applied with an eye bath), to help rinse away any dirt, dust, pollen grit at the end of each day.