Thumbnail image of: Stye: Illustration


What is a stye?

A stye is an infected lump that looks like a pimple at the edge of your eyelid. It can be painful, but it is rarely a serious problem.

What is the cause?

Styes are caused by bacteria that infect one of the small oil glands near your eyelashes. You may be more likely to get a stye if you have:

  • A skin problem like acne or dandruff
  • A long term health problem like diabetes or high cholesterol
  • An eye problem like blepharitis, which is redness and swelling of the edges of your eyelids

A stye looks similar to a chalazion, which is a painless lump in the eyelid caused by a blocked oil gland.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are swelling and redness in the area of the stye. It may also be painful, usually when you blink or touch the stye. A stye does not cause problems seeing unless it gets very swollen.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and activities and examine your eyes.

How is it treated?

Your provider may want you to clean your eyelids regularly using a warm wet washcloth. Follow your provider’s instructions carefully.

Sometimes a stye needs to be opened and drained by your healthcare provider for quick healing. Never attempt to open the stye yourself. Serious infections could spread into areas behind and around your eye.

If you have several styes, or if styes come back, your provider may want you to clean your eyelids regularly. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe antibiotic drops or ointment. Usually a stye clears up within a week.

How can I take care of myself?

You may need to follow a cleansing routine for several weeks or months:

  • Moisten a washcloth with warm water and hold it over both eyes for several minutes. The water and steam will help to soften any buildup of dirt or skin cells on your eyelids. A gentle massage on your eyelids with the washcloth can help remove the buildup.
  • Add a few drops of baby shampoo to a cup of water. Moisten a cotton swab with this mixture. Using the swab, clean all the buildup from the edges of your eyelids and eyelashes. Use a new swab for each eye. Do not let the swab touch your eyeball.

How can I help prevent styes?

Keeping your eyelids and eyelashes clean can help.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-12-05
Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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