Notice a small red bump in or around your eyelid? Does it resemble a pimple? If so, you are probably dealing with a stye. This happens when a bacterial infection clogs a gland near the eyelid. Oil builds in the clogged gland and causes it to become swollen and irritated. Much like pimples, styes are usually devoid of health concerns and are more notorious for their cosmetic impact.
Styes come in two forms:
1. External hordeolum – A bump found around the base of the eyelash that is commonly caused by a bacterial infection in the hair follicle.
2. Internal hordeolum – An irritation within the eyelid that’s created by an infection in the inner glands.
Good news: most styes go away on their own in about a week. However, if you want to speed up the process, here are some simple remedies for styes.
Warm it Up
While it may sound gross, warmth pushes the pus within styes to the surface and dissolves it so that the gland can drain itself. Applying heat to the area can be done in a number of ways, with the most common method being a warm compress. Creating a compress is as easy as running a clean washcloth under warm water — check that the water isn’t too hot to comfortably touch. Wring the washcloth and then place it over the stye for up to 10 minutes (do not put pressure on the infected area). You can also use a clean, unused sock with about half a cup of uncooked rice- no water necessary. Simply microwave the sock with the rice inside for about 15-20 seconds and set it gently on the eye until it cools again. Repeat this process three to four times daily and before you know it, you may find some relief.
Another popular source of warmth comes in the form of tea bags — black tea is preferred for its antibacterial properties. Prepare the bag as you would a normal cup of tea (steeping it in a mug of boiled water for a minute). Once the tea bag has cooled enough, apply it to the stye for five to ten minutes. Dr. Michele Green, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York, suggests using black tea as a compress twice per day to reduce swelling and discomfort.
Wash it Away
Cleaning the stye is key to helping remove bacterial buildup. Because of the close proximity to the eye, it is important to avoid using synthetic chemicals when washing a stye. Instead, use gentle products that won’t cause further irritation.
OCuSoft is specifically formulated for the eye and is proven to effectively eliminate bacteria found in the eyelid.
Tear-free shampoo is another great option for safely cleaning a stye. Mix it with some warm water, apply it to a washcloth, and gently wipe your eyelids. This can be done every day until the stye has cleared up.
Contact wearers will find another use for their saline solution, as the formula can help break down bacteria and promote drainage in the gland.
Washing your eyelids not only helps speed up the stye’s demise, it can prevent future bacterial infections.
What to Avoid
Styes are contagious, meaning coming in contact with the bacteria can cause additional infections. Stopping the spread requires maintaining clean hands and eyes, as well as not sharing things that may have touched the stye — pillows, towels, etc.
Contact lenses should also be avoided when experiencing a stye. Bacteria can latch onto the lens and spread the infection. Wear your glasses until the stye has healed and begin with a new set of contacts afterward.
Makeup is another item to avoid when dealing with a stye (no using concealer before going out). Cosmetics can further irritate the eye and add healing time to the infection. Also, makeup brushes and tools can carry bacteria from one eye to the other, leading to styes in both eyelids. In fact, after getting a stye it is recommended that you either wash all of our makeup brushes/sponges and get new mascara and eyeliner.
Do Not Pop
We all want immediate relief. Popping your stye may sound like a quick fix, but bursting that bubble presents unnecessary risk. Squeezing the stye can cause a release of infectious pus that spreads the bacteria to other areas of the face. Refraining from popping is especially important for styes found within the eyelid.
When To See A Doctor
Most styes do not require the intervention of a doctor in order to properly heal. Despite that, there are some symptoms that may need professional assistance. Contact your eye doctor if you experience any of the following with your stye:
- Vision worsens
- Pain in the eye
- Swelling of the eyelid
- Bump continues to worsen
- Infection is inside of eyelid
Your doctor will not only be able to help alleviate these symptoms, they should also be able to tell you if the stye is a result of an underlying condition, like cellulitis, conjunctivitis, or blepharitis.