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What is a stye?

A stye (hordeolum) is a tender red bump on the edge of your eyelid.

What causes a stye?

A stye happens when a gland on the edge of your eyelid gets infected.

The infection is most often caused by a bacteria or germ called staph (Staphylococcus aureus).

Who is at risk for a stye?

You are more likely to get a stye if you:

  • Have had one before
  • Wear contact lenses
  • Are not keeping your eye area clean
  • Use eye makeup
  • Have other eye conditions such as an inflamed or infected eyelid (blepharitis).

What are the symptoms of a stye?

Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling, redness, pain, or tenderness of the eyelid
  • Feeling like there is something in your eye
  • Being bothered by bright light
  • Tearing of the eye

The symptoms of a stye may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.

How is a stye diagnosed?

In most cases your health care provider will be able to tell that you have a stye by looking at it.

You will not need to take any tests.

How is a stye treated?

In most cases a stye will go away on its own.

There are some things you can do to treat the stye at home. These include:

  • Putting a warm, wet cloth (compress) on your eyelid for 5 to 10 minutes. This should be done 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Washing your hands often
  • Washing your face daily, including the eye area
  • Not touching the area
  • Not squeezing the stye
  • Not wearing makeup until the infection heals

Your health care provider may also:

  • Give you special bacteria-fighting (antibiotic) creams or ointments to put on the area. Only certain ones are safe to use near your eyes.
  • Refer you to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) if the stye does not go away.

What can I do to prevent a stye?

To prevent a stye, you should:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Wash your face and eye area
  • Be careful when using and removing eye makeup

Your health care provider may also suggest that you use a gentle baby shampoo to carefully clean the eye area.

When should I call my health care provider?

Call your health care provider if you:

  • Notice redness or swelling of your eyelid
  • Have pain in your eyelid
  • Feel like something is in your eye

Key points about styes

  • A stye (hordeolum) is a tender red bump on the edge of the eyelid.
  • It is an infection of a gland of the eyelid.
  • The infection is most often caused by bacteria called staph (Staphylococcus aureus).
  • The most common symptoms are redness and swelling of the eyelid.
  • In most cases a stye will go away on its own.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
Online Medical Reviewer: Haines, Cynthia, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 5/7/2015
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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