A stye, also known as a hordeolum, is a bump on your eyelid due to inflammation of the meibomian (oil) glands. You’ll likely notice a stye visually, in the mirror, before feeling it. It appears as a swollen bump just on the lid margin (where the lash and the lid meet) and is often sensitive to touch. Sometimes a stye is accompanied by tears, the gritty feeling of something in your eye and sensitivity to light.

Stye or Chalazion

A stye is caused by bacteria. Like a pimple, the bacterium on your skin invades the oil glands and becomes inflamed. Styes often appear to grow over the course of several days and eventually break open, drain and heal. You should not attempt to break open a stye yourself; in this case, the condition will likely worsen.

Styes can be easily treated at home though. Just apply warm, wet compresses to the affected area periodically throughout the day. If your stye doesn’t improve within a few days, gets worse or appears infected, you should see your doctor. Usually the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic treatment. If your stye does not respond to the treatment, the doctor may lance and drain the stye to speed healing.

A chalazion is often confused with a stye, but it is actually a blocked oil gland – that looks like a cyst beneath the skin – rather than a pimple. An untreated stye that does not heal on its own may become a chalazion. Styes tend to be uncomfortable to the touch but chalazia usually aren’t. A chalazion may take several months to resolve and heal, but as with a stye, you should never try to break it open yourself. You can treat a chalazion at home exactly like a stye. See your doctor if you feel it is worsening, if it seems infected, or shows no signs of improvement.

It is important with both styes and chalazia that you do not wear your contact lenses or cosmetics until the condition is healed.

Preventing a Stye

Eye hygiene is most important in the prevention of styes. Always wash your hands before touching the area around your eye. Also, do not to rub your eyes, as this may cause irritation and will likely transport bacteria from your face to your eyes. If you wear contact lenses, be sure to disinfect them properly and wash your hands thoroughly before handling the lenses. On the other hand, if you don’t want to bother with cleaning and disinfecting your contacts, try daily disposable lenses – like the 1-Day Acuvue Moist or Focus Dailies AquaComfort Plus brands.

Keeping make-up applicators clean is crucial, as well. Since bacteria can grow in your makeup, it is best to replace eye cosmetics every six months. Throw out any makeup you were using when the stye began. Remember to remove your makeup at night because sleeping in it can lead to inflammation.

If you find that your styes seem to recur, try washing your lids with baby shampoo and warm water daily. If you feel a stye coming on, start the warm compresses right away to help it drain and heal more quickly. After all, maintaining your eye health should be a top priority.

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