What is a stye?

A stye (also known as hordeolum) is a common problem that causes a painful lump on the eyelid. It is a small abscess (collection of pus) caused by a bacterial infection. It might sound unpleasant, but a stye won’t usually cause you any lasting problems.

What are the symptoms of a stye?

If you have a stye on your eyelid, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Tenderness in the eyelid
  • Watery eye
  • Your eye and eyelid can both appear red

Although they typically affect just one eye at a time, it is possible to have styes in both eyes simultaneously. Even if you’re suffering with styes in each eye, you should still be able to see clearly.

What causes a stye?

There are two types of stye. Both of them are caused by bacterial infection. The main difference between the two is where the stye actually develops:

  • An external stye – a swelling that develops on the edge of the eyelid causing a red lump toward to edge of the lid
  • An internal stye – a swelling that appears typically without redness away from the lid edge. This is usually more uncomfortable

Stye Treatment

Styes are caused by an infection by staphylococcus bacteria, so keeping the eye clean is imperative to help speed up recovery. External styes often turn yellow and release pus after a couple of days. Internal styes usually last a little bit longer.

Although styes can be painful and unsightly, they usually don’t require medical treatment. The abscess will normally burst of its own accord and release the pus, which helps to ease the pain and tension you’ll feel in the eye area.

Having a stye is uncomfortable but try to avoid rubbing it. You can ease the symptoms by gently placing a clean, warm cloth on your eyelid. This encourages the release of the pus which will mean you’ll start to feel less discomfort. You must never squeeze or try to burst the stye as this can cause further problems. Instead of a warm cloth other alternatives include special heat pads which can be purchased from your eye care practitioner.

If you’re suffering with a stye, the good news is that they are generally not serious, however if you begin to experience problems or complications – such as a cyst, which can develop if a gland is blocked, or cellulitis, which is an infection of the tissue around the eye – you should contact your eye care practitioner or GP as soon as possible.

If you have any concerns about the health of your eyes, please visit your local optometrist.