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A stye (hordeolum) is often a painful lump on either the inside or the outside of your eyelid. The lump is usually small, painful and may be filled with pus.

Most styes are isolated to one eye and last no longer than a week. After a few days, the lump should burst, release any pus and begin to heal.

If you develop a stye and you are finding it painful or affecting your vision, you should seek medical advice.


The symptoms of a stye include:

  • a pus-filled lump on the inside or outside of your eye
  • pain/discomfort
  • swelling
  • redness
  • burning sensation
  • a watery eye
  • a crusty eye
  • itchiness

If your eye/eyelid is swollen, watery and red, but there is no lump, the likelihood is that it is either blepharitis or conjunctivitis.

If there is a lump, but it is hard and does not cause much discomfort, there is a chance that it could be a chalazion instead.


  • A stye is commonly caused by staphylococcal bacteria, which can affect the glands in your eye and the hair follicles of your eyelashes.
  • If the stye appears on the inside of your eye, this could be the result of a blocked meibomian gland. These glands are responsible for preventing tears from evaporating, thereby ensuring that your eye is well lubricated. This is why symptoms of soreness and redness occur in the case of a stye. The glands can become infected, which causes swelling within the eyelid.
  • An external stye is usually the result of an infection due to a blockage in an external oil gland.
  • Styes can also be the byproduct of other eye-related issues. For example, blepharitis, which is an inflammation of your eyelids, can lead to the development of a stye.


There are a number of precautions you can take to ensure that a stye does not develop.
These include:

  • keeping eyelids and eyelashes clean (especially if you have blepharitis)
  • washing your face, using a clean cloth
  • removing eye make-up before going to sleep
  • replacing eye make-up at least every 6 months
  • ensuring your hands are clean when putting in contact lenses
  • not sharing towels or flannels with other people (especially anyone with a stye)
  • avoiding rubbing your eyes if your hands have not been washed recently


Despite steps taken to avoid a stye, they can still occur. In these instances, there are a number of things you can do to treat a stye yourself.

They will help to reduce swelling, manage the pain and ultimately help the stye heal.

These steps are as follows:

  • Soak a flannel in warm water and hold it against the affected eye for 5-10 minutes. Repeat between 3 to 4 times a day.
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses until the stye has fully healed.
  • Avoid using eye make-up until stye has healed.
  • Sterilise make-up brushes to prevent the infection from spreading.
  • Take painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol to reduce pain. Do not give aspirin to children under 16 years of age.
  • Do not try to burst the stye yourself to avoid spreading the infection. If the infection spreads this could lead to another stye or infection in the other eye.
Faheem Ahmed

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