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A stye or sty is a small pus filled, painful lump that appears on the edge of the eyelid. It is also known as a hordeolum in medical terms. The following paragraphs will give you all the basics about a stye as well as a bit about its treatment.

Overview on Styes

A stye is actually a bacterial infection that occurs in one or more of the  hair follicles of the eyelash or eyelid. This causes the follicles and glands around the eyelash to get clogged. It leads to a blockage leading to the appearance of a pus-filled boil or pimple on the eyelid. This common, short-term eyelid infection can strike a person more than once. It is very painful and causes a lot of discomfort.

What Causes Styes?

Stye is caused by an infection by a bacterium called Staphylococcus,  a common skin bacteria. These generally harmless bacteria are an opportunistic bacteria that can infect the oil glands or hair follicle at the base of the eyelash. This causes blockage and the appearance of abscess or pus-filled boil on the eyelid.

It can also occur due to poor hygiene and constant rubbing of the eyes. Thus, very common in infants who have a habit of rubbing their eyes and are not capable of washing their face and eyes on their own. In adults it can also be due to:

  • Lack of sleep,
  • Poor diet
  • Sharing face cloths or towels
  • Sharing makeup
  • Wearing too much makeup and not cleaning up later on
  • Stress
  • Changes in hormonal levels of the body
  • Suffering from other inflammatory eye diseases like blepharitis, rosacea, etc.

Types of Stye

There are two types of stye infections. These include external stye and internal stye. Let us have a look at both these types for more information.

External Stye

The most common type of stye infection occurs externally. It is called as an external hordeolum. It occurs due to an infection in the root of the eyelash. The Staph bacteria cause swelling and inflammation of the glands of Moll and Zeiss in the eyelid. A boil or abscess filled pimple appears near the edge of the eyelid. The point of the abscess is away from the eye. It is very painful and causes a lot of irritation to the affected person. It is very well visible and appears like a big, reddish bump on the eyelid.

Internal Stye

Internal stye as the name suggests appears on the middle of the eyelid. It is called as an internal hordeolum. The Staph bacteria infect the meibomian gland that is found in the middle region of the eyelid. As it is right in the middle, it is more painful and annoying than the external stye. Also, the stye points towards the eyeball making it more discomforting. In this case, one may have to visit the doctor for getting a cut on the eyelid, to drain out the pus formed inside.

Symptoms of Stye

When one develops a stye, they may complain of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Red bumps on the eyelid
  • The bump is red in color and tender to touch
  • As the bump grows one may see a white or yellow spot on the top indicating pus. This spotting is called as ‘pointing’
  • The boil or pimple is warm to touch
  • Watery eyes
  • In external stye, the swelling appears on the outside. In case of internal stye, the swelling is on the inner side of the eyelid.
  • Droopy eyelid
  • Eyeball becomes scratchy
  • Blurring of vision, especially in case of internal stye
  • Appearance of excessive mucus in the eyes

Complications Related to Stye

Styes are usually short-term infections that are cured in a few weeks with a little care. However, when the infection does not get cured easily, it may lead to a complication. This complication is called as a chalazion. It leads to blocking of oil glands that leads to a painful, hard bump on the eyelid. It is usually larger than the stye and needs help of a doctor to drain the pus with the help of a cut on the eyelid.

Other than a chalazia, one may develop a serious bacterial infection if the stye does not heal. This may require medical attention to cure the ever increasing redness and swelling.

Diagnosis of Stye

Stye does not require any special methods, procedures or tests for diagnosing. The doctor can diagnose a stye with physical check-up.

Treatment of Stye

Most of the time, a stye does not require any treatment. It usually gets cured once the boil bursts and releases all the pus. However, in order to facilitate the bursting process faster, one can try some of the following easy methods:

  • Use a warm compress over the infected eye for 5 – 10 minutes at least 3-5 times a day.
  • With your fingers, gently message (DO NOT RUB) the bump or boil to help the pus find a way out.
  • Speak to your doctor and ask for medicated eye drops or ointments that help in curing the infection.
  • The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics as well as painkillers to get rid of the infection as well as pain.
  • In some cases, surgery may be required to help drain the pus. All the doctor will do is pierce the bump with the help of a needle or place a small cut over the eyelid to drain the pus inside.

When the boil bursts, do not squeeze the stye. It may lead to severe infection later. Maintain proper hygiene, never share towels and makeup to prevent stye. Speak to your doctor regarding any infection of the eyelid or eyelash.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 4, 2015