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Diagnosing and Treating a Stye on the Eye

Eye Stye Treatment A stye (often misspelled ‘sty,’ and also called a hordeolum) is a fairly common eye condition and although painful, it is not serious. A stye occurs when a gland on the eyelid becomes infected. It appears as a red bump or pimple on the upper or lower eyelid, which is filled with pus and eventually bursts. It can be on the inside or on the outside of the eyelid but usually develops near the root of the eyelashes, known as the follicles.

A stye can occur at any age and although it may restrict vision for a time if the eyelid swells, it does not permanently damage the eyesight. If the eye has a series of styes at the same time, this is probably blepharitis.

Symptoms of a stye
A stye will typically show some or all of these symptoms:

  • Redness in an area of the eyelid
  • Swelling of the eyelid
  • Pain in the eyelid
  • Tenderness in the local area of the stye
  • A pimple-like bump may eventually develop
  • Watering of the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Foreign body sensation in the eye

Causes of a stye
A stye is caused by a bacterial infection, usually staphylococcal bacteria, which are found in the nose. If the nose is rubbed and then the eye, the bacteria are transferred. Although these bacteria are present in everybody, styes are particularly infectious. Keep your eyes and hands clean, wash frequently and do not share towels or washcloths with other members of the family.

Styes can also be caused by bacteria in old makeup or if eye makeup is left on overnight. Contact lens wearers may get styes if they are not scrupulously hygienic with their routine of washing their hands and cleaning the contact lenses properly.

Treating and preventing a stye
A stye will often clear up all on its own after a few days if left untreated. Applying hot compresses to the eye 3-4 times a day for 10 minutes or so can soothe the eyelid and speed up the healing process. The warmth will bring the stye to a head, like a pimple, and it will then break and the fluid will drain out.

Styes which are underneath the eyelid are more difficult to deal with but should never be squeezed or popped. If it does not improve or the redness appears to spread, an eye doctor may be able to help. For those who suffer with frequent styes on the eye, topical antibiotic cream may be prescribed as a preventative measure.

Good hygiene, frequent hand-washing and not rubbing the face are all good practices for avoiding styes. Regularly replace your eye makeup, as it can become contaminated, and never share makeup with anyone. Contact lens wearers should follow their eye doctor's directions to keep their lenses clean and disinfected.

What's the difference between a chalazion and a stye?
A chalazion looks very similar to a stye and occurs in the same place, close to the eyelashes on the edge of the eyelid. A chalazion is actually an enlarged oil gland which has become blocked. After a period of redness and swelling it will turn into a hard lump. The remains of a stye may eventually cause a chalazion, depending on the area it forms in.

Treatment for a chalazion is similar to that of a stye. Hot compresses will encourage the blocked gland to burst and clear itself. However a chalazion can linger for several months and an eye doctor may be required to drain it or inject a steroid to promote healing.

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