A stye (also spelled “sty”) develops when a gland at the edge of the eyelid becomes infected. Resembling a pimple on the eyelid, a stye can grow on the inside or outside of the lid. Styes are not harmful to vision, and they can occur at any age.
Sties respond well to treatment, but can recur. If untreated, sties can eventually lead to cellulitis of the eyelids, a more serious condition. They are neither contagious nor a sign of cancer.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
A stye initially brings pain, redness, tenderness and swelling in the area, then a small pimple appears. Sometimes just the immediate area is swollen; other times the entire eyelid swells. You may notice frequent watering in the affected eye, a feeling like something is in the eye or increased light sensitivity.
1. Redness, swelling, and pain in a localized area of the eye.
2. An external sty may be noted when there is a tender red nodule present below the lid margin; an internal sty may not have a visible nodule.
3. Slightly blurred vision.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
Styes are caused by staphylococcal bacteria. This bacterium is often found in the nose, and it’s easily transferred to the eye by rubbing first your nose, then your eye.
1. An examination of the eye generally confirms this infection.
2. Many sties will drain on their own, but to facilitate the drainage of the abscess and reduce pain, a folded clean cloth can be used as a compress. The compress should be dipped in warm water, wrung out until just a little dripping remains, and applied to the eye. Dip the folded cloth repeatedly to keep the compress wet and warm. Continue the application of the compresses for 10-15 minutes. Using a clean cloth each time, apply the warm compresses 4 times a day for 3 to 4 days.
3. Drug therapy can be prescribed by your health care provider. Do not use any medicine (including over-the-counter remedies) without checking with your health care provider. Generally, drug therapy includes antibiotic eye drops/ointment and, occasionally, an antibiotic taken by mouth. Carefully follow the directions prescribed by your health care provider.
4. If a sty does not drain spontaneously with compress application, visit your health care provider for assistance. Do NOT attempt to squeeze or drain the sty yourself. This will spread the infection and may cause cellulitis. Have your eye rechecked if symptoms persist after several days of treatment.
Most styes heal within a few days on their own. You can encourage this process by applying hot compresses for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a day over the course of several days. This will relieve the pain and bring the stye to a head, much like a pimple. The stye ruptures and drains, then heals.