A stye is a small, painful bump that appears on the inside or outside of the eyelid. It may resemble a pimple, have visible pus, and appear red, inflamed, and warm to the touch. Most people will experience this problem at least once in their life. Most styes will resolve on their own with simple at-home treatment, but it’s important to see a doctor if the stye does not show improvement within a few days. Never attempt to “pop” a stye or manipulate pus out of the abscess, as this can worsen the infection and cause permanent damage to the delicate structures of the eyes.
Stye Types & Symptoms
Styes occur when a gland or duct in the eyelid becomes blocked with bacteria and/or dead skin cells, causing an inflammatory response. Styes are usually visible to the naked eye, but in some cases they can occur deeper within the eyelid. In these instances, individuals may experience pain and feel a lump beneath the skin, but not see any visible evidence of a stye. Styes are classified based upon their location in the eyelid:
- External stye: This is the most common type of stye. It typically looks like a tiny pimple next to an eyelash at the outset. As it develops, the stye turns into an inflamed, painful bump, which will eventually burst before it heals completely. Most external styes heal on their own, but some may require treatment by an eye doctor or optometrist.
- Internal stye: These styes develop underneath the eyelid, which prevents the pimple-like abscess from appearing. Like an external stye, the area will appear red and be painful to the touch. Some internal styes resolve on their own, while others may form a cyst that needs to be drained by a doctor.
External and internal styes may be accompanied by other symptoms, including swollen eyelids, red or pink eyes, excessive tearing, sensitivity to light, and foreign body sensation (feeling that something is in the eye).
What is the Difference Between Styes & Pink Eye?
Styes and pink eye are two common, plainly visible eye problems. They are both contagious, but to varying degrees. Styes are caused by bacteria that occur naturally in everyone’s bodies, so anyone can develop a stye at any point in their life. That being said, there is still a chance that the bacteria can spread from one eye to another, so it’s important to keep hands clean and avoid sharing pillowcases, towels, etc. while you have a stye. There is no reason to stay home from work or school while the stye is present. Pink eye, on the other hand, is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection and is highly contagious. When someone has pink eye, they should remain home from work or school until the infection has shown dramatic improvement or antibiotics have started.
Treatment of Styes
Styes typically resolve on their own once the abscess bursts and releases its puss. Do not try to squeeze or burst the abscess in anyway, as this can worsen the infection and cause lasting damage. To encourage healing, a warm compress can be used as soon as the stye appears. Dampen a cloth with warm water and hold it over the affected eye for 5 – 10 minutes. This can be done several times throughout the day to encourage the stye to begin draining. If the stye is very painful, over-the-counter painkillers can be taken.
In some cases, a stye will not resolve on its own and will require medical care. If the stye worsens or fails to resolve after a week, a doctor may need to drain the abscess to encourage healing.
Consulting with Dr. Semaan
If you’re concerned about a stye that is not healing or are experiencing recurrent styes, please make an appointment with Dr. Semaan at our Orange County office. As a board-certified optometrist, Dr. Semaan has the experience and expertise required to treat a wide variety of eye conditions, including styes.