treat eye stye

How to treat a stye?

Written by: WellCome Care Editorial Team

In a Nutshell

  • A stye is a red and painful pimple that mostly develops along the outer edge of eye.
  • Avoid unnecessary touching, squeezing, or popping the stye
  • Treatment modalities revolve around pain management and home remedies to keep the eye clean to minimize the risk of infection

Brief Context:

A stye (also known as hordeolum), is a tiny red pimple or bump that develops along the outer edge of eyelids. Our eyelid contains tiny oil glands that are mainly concentrated near the eyelashes. These tiny glands sometimes get clogged with dirt, dead skin cells or oil buildup that may result in the bacterial growth and infection, resulting in the development of styes.

Usually styes are not a major cause of concern since most cases heal on their own within one to two weeks. However, since styes can be painful and uncomfortable, you can adopt simple remedies to get rid of them quickly.

Evidence-Based Treatment Regimen

Following home remedies may help a great deal in speeding up the healing process and reducing pain and discomfort.

  1. Warm compresses: The most effective method to treat a stye is to use warm compresses. The warmth of compress can help in releasing the pus, dissolving the oil, and thus easing pain and discomfort.
    Take a clean washcloth and soak it in warm water. Water should not be too hot. Now place this cloth over the stye and leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times per day until the stye heals completely.
  2. Taking care of eye hygiene: It is important to keep the affected eye clean. As styes are contagious and infection can spread to other areas of eye or to other people as well. You can use warm water and tear free shampoo to clean your eye.

Follow these strategies to minimize the risk of spreading infection to the other eye:

  • Try not to pop or squeeze the stye
  • Wash your eyes 3 to 4 times a day
  • Avoid sharing eye-care or skin care products with others
  • Do not rub or touch affected eye unnecessarily
  • If you are applying medicine on your eye, wash your hands with soap before and after the application of medicine
  • It is better to avoid using contact lenses until the stye has healed completely
  1. Pain killers: Styes may be painful and extremely uncomfortable. To relieve pain and discomfort use over the counter pain killers such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen. If your stye is extremely painful then it is better to visit the doctor. Several eye drops are also available in the market that may help ease the pain and discomfort
  2. Avoid makeup and wearing contact lenses: Avoid using cosmetics until your stye heals completely as cosmetics not only irritate the affected eye but can also transfer the bacteria and infection onto your makeup tools that results in further spread of infection. Wash your makeup brushes and tools after every use. Contact lenses can also make your infection worse so it is better to use spectacles until your stye heals completely.
  3. Antibiotics: Sometimes styes becomes large or gets worse over time. In such cases antibiotics are prescribed by doctor. Antibiotics help in killing the bacteria and minimizing the risk of spread of infection. Usually antibiotics are prescribed in the form of eye creams, ointments, or eye drops. The dosage and frequency vary according to patient factors and severity of condition.
  4. Steroids: To speed up the healing process, your doctor may inject steroids into the stye. Steroids helps in expediting the healing process. Steroids are available in the form of ointments, creams, and eye drops.
  5. Surgery: In severe cases of styes when it is not healing on its own, your doctor may suggest surgery to drain the stye. Draining also help in eliminating the reoccurrence of styes.

Nuances/ Safety

Speak to your doctor if:

- Stye is not healing on its own with simple home remedies

- Stye is getting bigger and more painful

- You have developed fever and other signs of infection

- Bloody discharge from the eyelid

- Impairment of vision

- If you have history of stye recurrence

In most cases stye improves on its own. However, if it is not improving on its own, you should consult your doctor who may prescribe you antibiotics to clear the infection and speed up healing process.

Strength of Evidence: B
Recommendations made in this article are based on consensus by healthcare professionals and renowned organizations such as the National Health Services

Our Ruling

Stye is a common condition that usually resolves on its own within a couple of weeks without aggressive treatment. You can adopt simple home remedies to alleviate pain and discomfort to hasten recovery. Make sure to not touch/ pick on stye as it may spread the infection.

Our Sources:

  1. Cleveland Clinic - Managing eye styes
  2. Am. Acad. of Ophthalmology - Stye treatment
  3. NHS - Eye styes
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