Are Eye Styes Caused by Stress? Risk Factors & Prevention

Medically Reviewed on 12/15/2021
Are Eye Styes Caused by Stress
Stress and lack of sleep can increase the risk of getting an eye stye by lowering immunity and making the body more susceptible to infection

Styes are caused by bacterial infections in the oil glands of the eyelid. However, stress and lack of sleep can increase the risk of getting an eye stye by lowering immunity and making the body more susceptible to infection:

  • Stress can induce the production of stress hormones, such as norepinephrine. Norepinephrine gets converted into a substance called 3, 4-dihydroxymandelic acid, which can attract bacteria toward body parts susceptible to infection.
  • Stress can disrupt sleep patterns, and lack of sleep can lower the amount of immune cells responsible for fighting infections.
  • Stress can make you feel fatigued, which can lead to poor eye hygiene such as not removing your makeup before bed or not washing your hands before touching your eyes.

What is a stye?

A stye, also called hordeolum, is a red, painful bump that forms either inside or outside the eyelid. There are two kinds:

  • External: Starts at the base of the eyelash and looks like a pimple.
  • Internal: Starts in the oil-producing gland in the eyelid.

Sometimes, styes can be confused with chalazions, which also form in the eyelid. A chalazion, however, is a painless bump that develops further back on the eyelid unlike a stye is not caused by a bacterial infection.

What increases your risk of getting eye stye?

In addition to stress and lack of sleep, other factors that increase the risk of developing styes include:

  • Poor hygiene habits:
    • Not removing eye makeup before sleep
    • Touching eyes without washing hands
    • Not disinfecting contact lenses or using infected contact lenses
    • Sharing cosmetics
    • Using expired cosmetics
    • Sharing clothes, face towels, or glasses with people who have styes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Diabetes
  • Other conditions:

How can you prevent eye styes?

  • Wash hands thoroughly before touching the face
  • Avoid rubbing the eyes
  • Clean contact lenses before and after use with disinfectant and lens cleaning solution
  • Remove contact lenses before going to sleep
  • Discard all expired eye makeup products
  • Wipe off all makeup before going to bed
  • Never share cosmetics and contact lenses with others
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Never share towels or clothes with someone who has a stye
  • Get regular eye checkups


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Medically Reviewed on 12/15/2021
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American Academy of Ophthalmology. Are styes in the eye contagious?

Cleveland Clinic. Stye.

Cleveland Clinic. Styes — How to Treat Them, How to Avoid Them.