A stye or hordeolum is an infection in the glands of your eyelids. The infection causes a pimple like painful red bump on the eyelid. It may be filled with pus.
Usually you may have one stye in one eye, however, it is possible to get multiple styes in one eye or styes in both the eyes at the same time.
There are two types of styes:
- External: the infection is in the glands on the outer side the lash line. You may be able to see it clearly as a painful swelling with yellow-black spot. The spot may break and pus may drain out.
- Internal: the infection is in the glands on the inner side of the lash line. This is more painful than the external stye and less likely to drain on its own.
- An eyelash follicle infection (follicle is a small hole through which hair grows out); this is similar to a boil on the skin.
- Infection of the various glands of the eyelid such as sebaceous gland (secretes an oily substance to lubricate the eyelash) or sweat gland.
- Blepharitis: This is an infection of the eyelid, which makes them red and swollen. Stye can be a complication of blepharitis. If you have stye due to blepharitis then you can also have the following symptoms: itchy eyelids, crusts on the eye lids, and painful swollen eyelids. Apart from infection, blepharitis can be caused by a skin condition called rosacea (causes redness and spots on the face). Chronic blepharitis is more likely to cause internal styes.
- Conjunctivitis: Internal styes can occur as a complication of conjunctivitis.
- Poor Hygiene: You can introduce infection in the eye by touching it frequently, sharing cosmetics, sharing towels and handkerchiefs, and rubbing it.
Usually styes have a self-limiting course and heal on their own. In most cases they just need a warm compress (a clean cloth dipped in warm water and wrung out) applied for a few minutes, four-six times in a day. Hold the warm compress lightly on closed eyes.
If they persist or become more painful or large, they need prompt treatment by a doctor. Your doctor may treat a persisting stye by:
- Drainage: External styes usually drain on their own. Internal styes often needs a doctor’s assistance for drainage. If the stye does not drain on its own your doctor may lance the stye to drain the pus. Never try to break the stye on your own as this may permanently damage your eyelid or cause injury to your eye.
- Antibiotics: Along with drainage your doctor may prescribe either oral antibiotics or antibiotics drops to completely eliminate the infections. Do not use antibiotics on your own as they alone cannot treat styes and may cause it to persist.
- Painkillers: You may take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain relief. However, please call your GP (General Practitioner) to make sure you are taking the correct dose. Your doctor may also prescribe painkillers.
- Referral to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist): Your GP may refer you to an eye specialist if you develop complications of stye or if your stye recurs after draining.
- Treat other eye conditions: If your stye is because of conjunctivitis or blepharitis, your doctor will treat these conditions or refer you to an eye specialist.