What is a stye and what can I do if I get one?

A stye is really just a pimple or an abscess that develops in either the upper eyelid or the lower eyelid. The stye infection is caused by a blockage of an oil duct and bacteria.   Bacteria or germs get trapped due to the blockage along with dead skin cells along the edge of the eyelid and the stye develops. Usually styes are superficial and visible to the naked eye. Sometimes a stye can reside deeper within the eyelid.

If you get an external stye it will start as a small pimple next to one of your eyelashes. As the stye develops it will turn into a red, painful bump that could last a few days before it bursts and then heals.  Most external styes heal on their own.  Some styes may require that you be seen by your eye doctor.

An internal stye is a stye that develops on the underside of the eyelid.  This type of stye also causes a red, painful bump, but the location of this stye prevents the familiar pimple from being visible on the eyelid. An internal stye will disappear completely once the infection is past, but there are times where an internal stye develops into small fluid-filled cyst that may have to be opened and drained.  If the blocked gland of a stye never gets better it is possible for scar tissue to develop around the swollen gland.  The pain subsides and but a “bump” can remain.

You can treat a stye by applying a warm compress to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes four times a day until you see the stye go away.  Just like a pimple you do not squeeze the stye. It is best to let it burst on its own.  If you have a more severe stye you will need to see your eye care provider because you may need a topical antibiotic eye drop.

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