Patient education: Stye (hordeolum) (The Basics)

Written by the doctors and editors at UpToDate

What is a stye? — A stye is a red and painful lump on the eyelid. It happens when a small gland on
the edge of the eyelid gets infected or inflamed. Styes can occur on the upper or lower eyelids. Most
styes get better on their own after a few days to a week. Another word for stye is “hordeolum.”

People sometimes get a stye confused with a different eye problem called a “chalazion.” A chalazion
also causes a lump on the eyelid. But a stye is caused by an infection and is painful. A chalazion is
not tender or painful, but it often lasts longer than a stye does.

What are the symptoms of a stye? — People who have a stye have a red and painful lump on the
edge of their eyelid. A stye usually develops over a few days. It can look like a pimple.
Styes can cause other symptoms, too, such as tearing and eyelid pain and swelling.

Is there a test for a stye? — No. But your doctor or nurse should be able to tell if you have a stye by
doing an exam and talking with you.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better? — Yes. To ease your symptoms and help
your stye get better, you can put warm, wet pressure on the stye. Wet a clean wash cloth with warm
water and put it over your stye. When the wash cloth cools, reheat it with warm water and put it back
over the stye. Repeat these steps for 5 to 15 minutes, and try to do this 3 to 4 times a day.

You should NOT squeeze or pop your stye. Also, you should not wear eye makeup or contact lenses
until your stye is all better.

Should I see a doctor or nurse? — See your doctor or nurse if:

  • Your stye doesn’t go away after you treat it on your own for 1 week

  • Your stye gets very big, bleeds, or affects your vision

  • Your whole eye is red, or your whole eyelid is red and swollen

  • The redness or swelling spreads to your cheek or other parts of your face

What treatments might my doctor use? — If your stye doesn’t get better or if it leads to other
problems, your doctor might:

  • Prescribe a cream or ointment that goes in the eye and on the eyelid

  • Prescribe antibiotic medicines

  • Drain the stye

Can styes be prevented? — Yes. To lower your chances of getting a stye, you can:

  • Wash your hands before you touch your eyes

  • Wash your hands before you put in contact lenses and keep your contact lenses clean (if you
    wear contact lenses)

  • Take off your eye makeup each night

  • Not share eye makeup with other people


All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 12, 2017.

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