Ouch! What's that tiny little bump on your eyelid? If you have a stye, there's good news: Styes are usually easy to get rid of.
What's a Stye?
A stye is a red, painful bump on the eyelid, caused by a backed-up oil
gland. It could appear on your upper or lower eyelids, or on the inside or
the outside of the eyelids, near the edge of the eyelid where the eyelashes are.
Why Do Styes Happen?
Your eyelids have lots of oil glands that act like the water sprinklers on lawns.
They make a special oil that mixes with tears to keep eyes lubricated.
Sometimes, these glands can get clogged up with old oil, dead skin cells, and old
skin bacteria (our skin has bacteria on it all of the time — just not enough
to cause infections). When this happens, the glands can't act like water sprinklers
anymore. Instead, they're suddenly more like water balloons — big and full of
liquid that can't get out.
The result? You look in the mirror and see a little bump on your upper or lower
eyelid (it might look like a zit). A stye can become infected and get very red and
What Can You Do?
The first thing you want to do is help the clogged-up oil get out of the stye.
Applying heat can make the oil become more liquid. The best way to get warmth to your
oil glands is by using a washcloth that's been soaked in warm water. Make sure the
water isn't so hot that the washcloth could burn you. Put the washcloth over your
eye for a few minutes. You can repeat this several times a day.
You also can try cleaning your eyelid with special eye-scrub soap (available at
drugstores) or watered-down baby shampoo (not with regular soap or shampoo),
which is designed to not hurt eyes. Soak a cotton swab in the solution and use it
to clean your eyelid.
If you wear contacts, switch to wearing glasses until the stye goes away. Clean
your contacts really well before using them again to remove any germs.
If your eyeball hurts or you can't see properly, call your doctor. You'll also
need to see a doctor if you have swelling and redness beyond your eyelid, like in
your eye or other parts of your face.
What If a Stye Doesn't Get Better?
Your stye (or styes) should begin to improve over a few days. If it doesn't,
or if it gets worse, see a doctor.
If your doctor decides you have a stye, he or she may give you an antibiotic cream
to use on your eyelid or prescribe antibiotic pills. In rare cases, a doctor may need
to make a tiny cut in an eyelid to let out the clogged-up material. The doctor also
will be able to tell if you have something other than a stye and treat that.
Some people are more likely to get styes than others. If you find you get a lot
of styes, let your doctor know.
Can Styes Be Prevented?
Getting one stye makes a person more likely to get another. You can reduce your
risk of getting styes in the future by doing a few simple things:
Clean your eyelids every day or every couple of days with the diluted baby shampoo
or special eye-scrub soap.
Disinfect contact lenses according to the instructions.
Remove all eye makeup completely before going to bed.
Throw away mascara, liquid eyeliner, and eye shadow 3 months after you first use
Don't share towels or washcloths with anyone who has a stye.
Wash your hands, and do it often. Your eyes (and the rest of your body) will thank