A stye in your eye is unsightly, uncomfortable and the quicker you can rid of it, the better. Much like a pimple on your face, a stye – or sty – is a bacterial infection of a small gland within your eyelash follicle.
The gland fills with pus, which is often visible beneath the skin like the head of a pimple.
These lumps not only look awful – the eyes are, after all, the first thing we see when we encounter someone – but the pus makes the eyelid very tender in that area. This post looks at what works to get rid of a stye, as well as what doesn’t.
Do’s and Don’ts
This condition is common and not serious and usually resolves by itself within a couple of weeks without treatment. To encourage quicker healing, you can try some of the following:
- DO use warm compresses to help clear the drainage of pus from the eyelash follicle. Heat can be applied to the closed eyes using a heat pack or specially designed eye mask, such as the Bruder heat pack. Apply the warm pack for 10 minutes several times a day if possible.
- DON’T ever squeeze a stye or try to burst it. This can result in the pus being squeezed deeper into the delicate tissue of the eyelid and can lead to more serious or prolonged infection.
- DO keep the eyelids clean, especially if you have blepharitis. The staphylococcal bacteria that usually cause styes can build up in large numbers in a biofilm on your eyelid margins. Keeping them clean with a product like Sterilid or Blephadex reduces the bacterial load and protects against further recurrence.
- DON’T confuse a stye with a chalazion, which is a non-tender lump. This is not an infection but an inflammatory response in the oil gland of your eyelid. They also tend to resolve within a few weeks but may require treatment from an ophthalmologist if they persist.
- DO see your optometrist if your eyelid lump hasn’t resolved within 3 weeks, whether it is tender or not. Rarely, these lesions turn out to be more sinister. In-house treatment is also available.
- DON’T put honey on your eye! Strange as it may sound, this old wives’ tale still persists. Honey is not sterile and should never be applied near the eye (which is an almost sterile environment). There is a product called Optimel, which is an antibacterial gel made from manuka honey specifically for use in the eye. While it can be effective in the management of dry eye and blepharitis, it is not indicated for the treatment of styes.
- DO consult your optometrist if your whole eyelid becomes puffy or you develop a fever, to rule out more serious infections.
- DON’T rub your stye with a gold ring. This may sound obvious, but it is another persistent myth about treating this condition. Rubbing a ring near the eye can risk further infection as well as trauma to the delicate cornea of the eye. It can also squeeze the pus further back in to the eyelid, which can lead to scarring.
- DON’T self-medicate! Occasionally an antibiotic ointment such as Chlorsig can help with the infection, but this is the call of your therapeutically-endorsed optometrist and not something you should do yourself in case the diagnosis is incorrect.
A therapeutically-qualified optometrist is your first port of call for any eyelid lumps or bumps. These professionals have had additional training in the diagnosis of a wide range of eye diseases and are qualified to prescribe the appropriate treatment for your condition.