Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
A sty (sometimes spelled stye) is a tender, painful red bump located at the base of an eyelash or under or inside the eyelid. A sty results from a localized infection of the glands or a hair follicle of the eyelid. The medical term for a sty is
hordeolum (plural, hordeola).
The term external hordeolum refers to a sty that develops at the base of an eyelash (the hair follicle), whereas the term
internal hordeolum refers to a sty that develops in a meibomian gland, a gland located on the underside of the eyelid that secretes an oily substance onto the eyeball.
A sty is sometimes confused with a chalazion (see below), which is a cyst or a specific type of scarring due to chronic inflammation arising in the meibomian glands of the eyelid. A chalazion may develop when the infection of a sty persists over time, resulting in scarring around the meibomian gland. In contrast to a sty, a chalazion is usually painless.
A sty results from an infection of the oil glands of the eyelid (meibomian glands) that help to lubricate the eyeball. The infection occurs after these glands have become clogged. A sty also may arise from an infected hair follicle at the base of an eyelash. The bacterium
Staphylococcus aureus that is frequently found on the skin is responsible for 90%-95% of cases of styes. A sty also can develop as a complication of diffuse inflammation of the eyelid (blepharitis).
Application of a warm compress or warm washcloth to the affected area for 10 minutes, four to six times a day, can be an effective home remedy and speed rupture of the sty that aids in the relief of symptoms. A sty should not be pressed or squeezed to facilitate drainage, since this can spread or worsen the infection. If a sty persists for several days, a doctor may lance (drain) the infection under local anesthesia in his or her office. Children who require surgical drainage of a sty may need a general anesthetic. Antibiotic ointments and/or steroid ointments sometimes are prescribed to treat a sty.