What is a stye?

A stye is a common bacterial infection in the eyelid. Get rid of a stye by applying warm, wet compresses, keeping eyes clean, and avoiding wearing contact lenses.
A stye is a common bacterial infection in the eyelid. Get rid of a stye by applying warm, wet compresses, keeping eyes clean, and avoiding wearing contact lenses.

A stye is a common bacterial infection in the eyelid. Styes are often painful, but they heal independently and seldom require medical attention. Getting rid of a stye fully overnight may not be possible. However, some methods can assist in speeding up the healing process. 

The most effective treatment is to dip a clean cloth in warm water and gently place it on the affected eye for 5-10 minutes. Continue doing this 3-5 times a day. Warm compression and gentle massage may ease the pain and reduce the size of the stye.

A stye, medically referred to as hordeolum, is a small, painful, red lump on the eyelid or around the eye. It is an infection caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus

Styes are more common in children than adults.

They can appear on the upper or lower eyelids, on the inside or outside of the eyelids, or at the edge of the eyelids.

A stye may cause the skin around the eye to swell and redden. It may also contain yellow pus. Styes usually affect just one eye and may occur more than once.

Types of stye

There are two types of stye.

External stye

This usually appears at the base of an eyelash and looks like a pimple. An infection causes most external styes in the hair follicle.

Internal stye

These styes often appear inside your eyelid. They are caused by a bacterial infection in oil glands in your inner eyelid.

Symptoms of a stye

The symptoms of a stye may vary depending on the individual. Even so, some are common to everyone. The most common symptoms are swelling, redness, and pain in the eyelid.

Other symptoms include:

  • Crusting on the affected eyelid
  • Discharge coming from the eye
  • Itchiness in the eye
  • Eye sensitivity when exposed to bright light
  • Feeling like there’s a foreign object in your eye

Diagnosis of a stye

Diagnosing a stye doesn’t require any special tests. A stye diagnosis is usually based on your medical history and a physical examination. Your doctor can diagnose a stye by looking at it.  

Getting rid of a stye

Styes are a discomfort but not impossible to manage. You don’t require medication for a stye. Here’s how to get rid of a stye at home.

  • Warm, wet compress- Warm compresses are the best way to treat a stye. You can make a warm compress by soaking a clean washcloth in warm water, not hot.
  • Apply the warm compress- Gently hold the warm washcloth onto the affected eye for 5-10 minutes. Repeat this 3-4 times a day until the pus comes out. Do not squeeze a stye.
  • Keep your eyes clean- Always keep your eyes clean and be careful not to touch or rub them, especially the infected eye.
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses or makeup when treating a stye until the stye disappears.

Styes take one to three weeks to heal on their own. However, see an ophthalmologist if a stye reappears, persists, or worsens after three weeks . 

Other treatment methods


If a stye persists, the eye physician may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or cream to apply to your eyelid. If the infection on your eyelid doesn’t clear or spread to other areas of your eyelid, antibiotics in tablet form may be recommended. You can take a painkiller such as ibuprofen to reduce the pain. Do not squeeze a stye as it may cause the infection to spread. 

Pressure-relieving Surgery

If the stye takes longer than usual to heal, your eye physician may make a small cut on the stye to drain the pus.

Who is at risk?

Styes are not contagious. However, some people may be prone to getting styes more than others. You are at risk of getting a stye if:

How to prevent a stye from developing

Preventing the occurrence of a stye may not be possible, especially if you have had one before. However, the following measures may help prevent a stye from appearing again.

Keep your eyes clean. Use Clean water to clean your eyes often. Good eye hygiene prevents a stye from appearing.

Wash off makeup and dirt. After a long day with makeup, wash it off with clean water. Do not sleep with your makeup on. When washing it off, clean the eye area with clean water.

Do not use old makeup or share. Some beauty products (e.g., mascara) should be replaced every 2-3 months after purchase to avoid eye problems. Also, avoid sharing your skin products. 

Keep your hands clean. Always wash your hands with soap and clean water and rinse off thoroughly before touching your eyes or wearing your contacts. In addition, disinfect your lenses with a lens cleaning solution before wearing them.

Avoid touching the eye areas. Your hands carry invisible germs almost all the time. Touching your eyes may encourage the appearance of a stye. Avoid touching your eyes if your hands are not clean.


Styes can be nasty and uncomfortable, but the above home treatments could help ease the pain and quicken the healing process. Also, washing your pillowcase more often will reduce the spread of the infection. Do not touch your eyes unless you are using warm compresses to treat the stye. This is important to avoid irritation and reduce the spread of bacteria.


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Medically Reviewed on 7/25/2022

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American Academy of Ophthalmology: "What Are Styes and Chalazia?."

The Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Hordeolum (Stye)."

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NYU Langone Hospitals: "Surgery for Stye.", "Home Treatment for Stye."

The Nemours Foundation: "Styes."

Stanford Health Care: "Chalazion and Stye Treatment."

University of Rochester Medical Center: "Styes in Children."