I spy with my little eye, a stye. Ugh.
A stye is an abscess or a pimple that usually forms on the upper or lower eyelid. It starts out as a pimple next to an eyelash before it turns into an unsightly, painful red bump. Most of the time, you can get stye treatments from the comfort of your own home until they break and start to heal.
Sometimes a stye will grow on the inside of the eyelid. This is called an internal hordeolum. It may not respond to the treatments discussed below and should be looked at by a doctor or ophthalmologist.
Is It a Stye or Chalazion?
Sometimes a stye isn’t a stye but a chalazion, which is a similar irritation on the eyelid.
- A stye usually forms on the outer rim of the eyelid before it spreads out, making the whole lid look red and ugly. It also hurts.
- A chalazion is an infection caused by a clogged oil gland and grows under the eyelid, in the middle of the eyelid, or behind the eyelashes. It’s usually painless.
Chalazions are larger than styes, approaching the size of a pea, which is pretty big on an eyelid and can interfere with vision.
A Warm Compress For Eye Stye Relieves the Pain
Anything that touches your eyes, including your hands, must be clean.
After thoroughly washing your hands, take a clean, soft washcloth and soak it in warm water to make a stye compress. Be sure the cloth doesn’t get too hot for the sensitive skin around your eye.
Keep your eye closed when you apply the compress, and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this two to four times a day for several days. You’ll start to feel it shrink and the pain lessens after a couple of days. Eventually, the stye will pop on its own. Use a clean cloth or cotton ball to absorb the fluid and clean the eye with a warm, soapy solution.
You can also try using a warm tea bag compress. Black tea has antibacterial properties, which is helpful with inflammation and can reduce swelling as well.
Stye warm compresses can also soothe chalazion but may not do much to clear them up. So, if your stye doesn’t improve for a few days or continues to swell, you may have a chalazion. Time to call your doctor.
Don’t Pop a Stye
If you’ve ever wondered how to pop a stye — just don’t. It’s contagious, and the last thing you want to do is spread the fluids from a stye.
A stye that doesn’t go away — doesn’t shrink and pop on its own, or gets worse — needs to be properly drained by a physician or eye care specialist, particularly if it turns out to be a chalazion.
What you can do is gently press the inflamed bump with a clean finger after it’s been under a warm compress to help it unplug. That isn’t exactly popping it, but helping the process move along.
Prevent Styes Before They Form
Use a warm compress for any sore spot that develops near your eyelashes. It may be the beginning of a stye, and the heat from the compress can help it drain on its own before it forms into an actual stye.
If you frequently get styes, try using pre-moistened eyelid cleaning pads or ask your doctor for an antibiotic ointment. He or she may also want to evaluate you for blepharitis, a chronic inflammation of the eyelids, or ocular rosacea, an inflammation that reddens the skin.