If you have a painful red bump on your eyelid, it could be a stye. Styes can be a common occurrence for some people while others have never had one in their life. Though it’s always a good idea to get any new painful lump on the eyelid checked out by an optometrist or eye doctor, here is what you should know about the symptoms of a stye and the treatment options.
What Causes a Stye on the Eyelid?
A stye is caused by a bacterial infection in an eyelid gland. Depending on the type of stye – internal or external, the specific oil gland involved is different.
Internal styes are a bacterial infection of the meibomian oil glands of the eyelid.
Conversely, external styes are a bacterial infection of the oil glands associated with an eyelash follicle.
Risk Factors for Eyelid Styes
Some people are simply prone to styes even without possessing any known risk factors. For others, there are some identifiable risk factors. These can include:
- If you wear contact lenses and don’insertion or removal
- If you often don’t wash your hands before touchint wash your hands before g your eyes or eyelids in general
- Using old cosmetics that may be contaminated
- Not removing your eye makeup properly
- Certain skin conditions such as acne rosacea
- A common condition known as blepharitis, involving chronic inflammation of the eyelids
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Stye?
Styes present as a painful lump on the eyelid. This bump may be near the edge of your eyelid or form further into the lid.
An external stye often appears as a pimple-like bump at the base of the eyelash follicle, while an internal stye can look like a red lump further away from the edge of your eyelid. Some internal styes don’t present with any visible change to the outer eyelid skin, but instead, you may just notice a painful area of swelling on the eyelid.
Eyelid swelling, in some cases, can seem to involve the entire eyelid or be so significant that it may be difficult to open the eyelids fully, affecting your vision.
Styes can occur on either the upper or lower eyelid, and you can have more than one stye at a time. Styes do tend to recur, especially in people with existing risk factors.
Another type of eyelid bump that’s commonly confused with styes is known as a chalazion (plural chalazia).
Unlike a stye, chalazia are not caused by an infection but instead are due to a blockage of one of the eyelid oil glands. A chalazion can involve swelling of the eyelid but is not typically associated with any significant pain.
Is a Stye Ever a Medical Emergency?
Styes themselves are harmless and not an emergency. However, a stye can (rarely) progress into a painful infection of the entire eyelid, known as preseptal cellulitis.
The management of preseptal cellulitis requires oral antibiotics to prevent it from escalating into another condition known as orbital cellulitis, which is a medical emergency.
Eyelid Stye Treatment Options
Most styes will self-resolve within a few days to a week without treatment. However, you can consider some simple self-care steps that may help the stye heal more quickly.
Using a warm compress is a low-risk, easy way of helping your stye heal. Soak a clean cloth or face towel in warm water, making sure the water is not so hot as to cause pain or discomfort against your skin. Then place the warm washcloth over your closed eyelid. This can be done several times a day.
You may find that gently massaging your eyelid can help as well. While doing the warm compresses and massage, ensure you don’t rub your eyelid so hard as to pop the stye, which can lead to the spreading of the infection throughout the eyelid.
Before touching your eyelids, it’s important to wash your hands with warm water and mild soap.
If you normally wear contact lenses, it’s best to stay out of them until the stye has resolved. Your w when it’s appropriate to wear contact lenses again.
Similarly, avoid wearing eye makeup. If you currently have a stye, it’s best to replace any old cosmeticdoctor will let you knos used around the eyes.
Keep your eyes and eyelids clean from dirt, dust, and other contaminants.
If your styes are associated with a skin condition such as rosacea, continue managing this as usual.
If you have blepharitis contributing to recurrent styes, your doctor may suggest an eyelid wash. This can simply be diluted baby shampoo scrubbed across your closed eyelid with a warm washcloth or a specifically formulated detergent.
Should I See a Doctor for a Stye?
While most cases of styes resolve with the self-care practices of a warm compress and gently massaging the eyelids, you may see a doctor if the stye is extremely painful, affecting your vision from the swollen eyelid, or taking a long time to heal.
Antibiotic Treatment for a Stye
Your doctor may choose to prescribe antibiotic ointment to treat an external stye at the edge of the eyelid, or an antibiotic to be taken by mouth for an internal stye. However, there is little evidence to suggest that a stye treated with antibiotics resolves any faster than one treated with a warm compress.
Surgery for a Stye
Occasionally, your eye doctor may need to perform minor surgery to help the stye resolve. A small incision is made under local anesthesia, and the contents of the stye are drained.
Do your best to manage any factors that cause a stye. This includes discarding eye makeup every three months and ensuring you wash your hands before handling contact lenses.
Some people find it helpful to routinely use warm compresses and wash their eyelids with a warm washcloth.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Stye removal: surgery and other treatment methods.