What Is a Stye?

A stye is a red, painful, pimple-like bump that forms on the eyelid or eyelash line. When one of the oil glands at the edge of your eyelid becomes infected, a stye may develop on the inside or outside of the eyelid. Styes can happen at any age from newborns to older adults.

Why Choose Moran Eye Center?

The Moran Eye Center offers accessible, nationally ranked care for our patients. Our team of ophthalmologists provides comprehensive eye care with multiple locations to best suit your needs. As the only academic ophthalmologic institution in the state, we have a strong reputation of trust and service across all ages and many levels of care. Our specialists have the expertise and equipment to treat any eye condition, from minor irritation to more advanced eye disease.

Image of red bump along edge of eyelid

Stye Symptoms

If you have a stye, you may notice:

  • a painful red bump along the edge of the eyelid or lash line;
  • swelling around the bump, which sometimes affects the entire eyelid;
  • pus at the center of the bump;
  • scratchy feeling or feeling like something is in your eye;
  • light sensitivity;
  • crustiness along the lid and lash line; or
  • excessive tearing (watery eyes).

Try to avoid scratching your stye, as that may damage your skin or the soft tissue of your eye.

How Do You Get a Stye?

Styes are caused by a clogged or infected oil gland in your eyelid. You may be at increased risk for a stye if you:

  • experience blepharitis (chronic eyelid inflammation);
  • have skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, or seborrheic dermatitis;
  • have diabetes;
  • are going through hormonal changes; or
  • have increased lipid levels associated with high cholesterol.

Are Eye Styes Caused by Stress?

Styes are not caused by stress, diet, or hygiene.

Why Do I Keep Getting Styes?

Recurrent styes may be due to chronic conditions such as blepharitis (clogged oil ducts) or rosacea. Your ophthalmologist can help determine any underlying causes and recommend the correct treatment.

Are Styes Contagious?

Styes are not contagious. However, in rare instances, bacteria may spread between others if common items like towels or pillowcases are shared.

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When to See a Doctor for a Stye

If your symptoms are mild, you may try home treatment, or visit your primary care physician. See one of our ophthalmologists within one week if your stye has worsened or symptoms become severe. If symptoms are severe, see an ophthalmologist within one to two days. Your ophthalmologist will conduct an eye exam and evaluate your symptoms to determine if more advanced treatment is necessary. 

See an ophthalmologist right away if:

  • your eye swells shut,
  • your pain or swelling increases after two to three days,
  • blisters form on your eyelid,
  • your eyelid feels hot, or
  • you experience substantial changes in vision.

Styes frequently recur. Your ophthalmologist may recommend a small biopsy (tissue sample) of the stye to rule out underlying medical conditions.

Stye Treatment

If you frequently develop styes, your ophthalmologist may prescribe an antibiotic to further treat and prevent recurrences.

In severe or long-lasting (over three weeks) cases, your ophthalmologist may also recommend an in-office procedure to drain your stye. Our clinicians are trained to properly drain a stye without damaging your eye or surrounding tissue.

How Long Does a Stye Last?

Many styes heal within a few days and can be easily treated at home. See your eye care specialist if your stye lasts more than two to three weeks.

Home Remedies for Stye

Our eye care specialists recommend beginning treatment at home to see if your symptoms improve before seeking professional care.

Try applying warm compresses to the stye. Hold a clean cloth under warm water until it’s completely wet. Wring out excess water, fold the cloth into a rectangle, and apply to the affected eyelid. When the cloth is no longer warm, repeat the process and reapply to your eye. You may repeat this process for 15 minutes four times a day over the course of several days. When heat is applied, it brings the stye to a head like a pimple, allowing the tense fluid inside to drain and relieve any associated pain.

Can You Pop a Stye When It Comes to a Head?

We do not recommend trying to pop or drain a stye on your own. Improperly popping a stye can lead to further infection or inflammation.

How to Prevent Styes

  • Apply a warm compress once a day.
  • Remove your eye makeup before going to bed.
  • Replace your eye makeup regularly to avoid bacterial growth.
  • Wash your hands before touching your eyes or contact lenses.
  • Avoid sharing makeup, towels, pillows, or other personal items.

If you regularly experience styes, your ophthalmologist may recommend an antibiotic ointment to apply daily.

Schedule an Appointment

If you have a stye, or have other eye care concerns, contact our Ophthalmology Clinic at 801-581-2352 to schedule an appointment.  

Referrals are welcome, but not necessary. Please check with your insurance provider before scheduling a routine exam. Many insurance plans will cover your visit if there is a medical eye problem but may not allow for routine or non-specialty care eye exams.