Sty: What Is It, Causes & How To Get Rid of It

Updated in March 2022

A sty is the inflammation of a gland on the eyelid, which happens due to a bacterial infection. It leads to the appearance of a swollen lump, redness, discomfort and itchiness on the eyelid.

Even though they can be very uncomfortable, styes normally resolve on their own within three to five days without the need of any specific treatment.

When styes do not disappear after eight days, or if they worse overtime, you should see your doctor for assessment. The sty at this point can develop into a chalazion, which needs to be treated with a small surgical procedure.

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Sty symptoms 

Styes are characterized by swelling of the eyelid, but other symptoms can include:

  • Discomfort, sensitivity, itchiness or pain on the edge of the eyelid;
  • Small swollen lump with a small yellow dot in the center;
  • Redness and increased temperature of the eyelid;
  • Increased sensitivity to light.

Styes usually disappear on their own after a few days, however, if they persist, it's also possible there's an inflammation of the glands near the root of the lashes. If left untreated, it can lead to a chalazion, which is a small nodule that needs to be surgically excised. 

What causes styes 

Styes usually occur due to an infection of a gland located on the eyelid. This is more common in people who have seborrhea, acne, oily skin or chronic blepharitis, because glands tend to get clogged more easily, which promotes the development of fungus and bacteria.

How to treat styes 

Styes usually do not require any type of special treatment. However, there are a few steps that can help getting rid of them faster:

  • Keep the area around the eyes clean, and do not let secretions accumulate;
  • Apply warm compresses to the affected eye for 10 to 15 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day;
  • Avoid scratching, squeezing or pressing the eyelid;
  • Do not wear make-up or contact lenses.

Styes usually heal on their own after about five days, and they do not usually last for more than one week. Decreases in swelling, pain, and redness are signs of improvement.

When to go to the doctor 

It is recommended to visit a doctor if one of your eyes is very red or irritated, if you experience eyesight problems, if the sty does not improves after 7 days, or if the inflammation spreads to the face, causing a large red, hot, and painful area.

After assessment, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotics lotion or eye drops, and in some cases, oral antibiotics. There are also a few serious cases in which a small surgery is needed to drain the pus from the sty.