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Spy a stye on your eye?
Here’s what you should know – and what to do

Eye styes can be sneaky. Just like that, you wake up one morning with a painful lump on your eyelid. Maybe there was some redness or discomfort along the lash line the day before. Maybe there wasn’t. All you know is that you have a lump on your eyelid, and you want to get rid of it fast. You have things to do, people to see and places to go.

Here’s what you should know about eye styes.

Eye styes are not the same as pink eye

While eye styes and pink eye are irritating infections that affect eyes, there are differences between them. An eye stye is a bacterial infection arising from a blocked oil gland or follicle that always presents as a hard, often unsightly lump along the lash line.

On the other hand, pink eye is mostly caused by a viral infection that affects the lining of the eye. It can result in redness and tearing across the entire surface area of the eye and often comes with other symptoms associated with colds and flu.

Unlike pink eye, which is highly contagious, eye styes usually aren’t. Very rarely, eye styes are spread if the bacteria causing them is transmitted from one person to another through direct contact or from a contaminated towel or pillowcase. You can still go to work or school, and get on with life, albeit with a painful, lump on your eyelid.

How to tell if you have an eye stye

An eye stye is a tender, red lump that looks quite similar to a pimple. Eye styes are often filled with pus. If that’s what you’ve got, it is likely a stye.

Not all lumps on the eyelid are styes. A chalazion is a lesion that happens when the oil-producing or tear glands in the eyelids get blocked. A chalazion tends to grow further on the eyelid than a stye, and it is usually painless.

Back to eye styes. There are two types. An external stye develops on the outside of the upper or lower eyelid. External styes are the most common and are typically caused by an infection in an eyelash follicle.

As the name suggests, an internal stye forms on the inside of the eyelid. This type of eye stye is usually caused by an infection of the oil-producing gland on the inner eyelid.

Although eye styes are common, especially in adults whose oil glands are thicker than in children, you are at a higher risk of getting eye styes if you have certain conditions such as blepharitis, dandruff, rosacea, diabetes or high levels of bad cholesterol.

Common signs of eye styes

Aside from the pimple-like lump on your eyelid, you may also experience these eye stye symptoms

  • Swelling of your entire eyelid
  • A feeling that there’s something stuck in your eye.
  • Crusting along the eyelid
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Itching
  • Eye tearing

How to get rid of an eye stye

Eye styes usually resolve on their own within a week or two. To ease the discomfort, you can gently wipe away eye discharge and crustiness using an eyelid wipe. You can also use warm compresses. Simply, wet a facecloth with warm water, squeeze out excess water, and hold it to your eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes.

A green tea bag that has been soaked in water can also be used as a compress. The antibacterial properties and natural antioxidants in green tea could help to alleviate discomfort and promote healing.

Applying makeup to an infected eye is never a good idea. Importantly, never try to squeeze or pop a lump on your eyelid!

Should you see a doctor about eye styes?

If, after two days of self-care, your symptoms are no better or getting worse, call your eye doctor. Definitely see your Dynamic Vision optometrist if

  • Your eye is swollen shut
  • Pus or blood is leaking from the lump
  • You have blisters on your eyelid
  • Your eyelid feels hot
  • You are experiencing changes in vision
  • You keep getting eye styes

Depending on the severity or the length of time you have been afflicted with an eye stye, your eye doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment or eye drops. In some cases, oral antibiotics are prescribed to treat eye styes. Steroid injections can also be given to reduce eyelid swelling.

In rare instances, it is necessary to drain eye styes. This is done by making a small incision at the site of the eye stye, under local anaesthetic, in an optometrist’s rooms.