A stye (known by eye doctors as a hordeolum) is an infection of an oil gland which forms a pimple-like bump on the base of the eyelid or within the eyelid itself. Styes can be uncomfortable, causing swelling, pain, redness, , and sometimes excessive tearing. If the stye is large and it distorts the front surface of the eyes, it can cause blurred vision.
What causes a stye?
The oil glands on the eyelid sometimes become blocked with dirt, cosmetics, dead skin, or a buildup of oil. When this occurs, bacteria can grow inside. This blockage causes the gland to become infected and inflamed, resulting in a stye. A stye can form on the inside or the outside of the eyelid and can cause swelling around the eye, sometimes affecting the entire eyelid.
Treating a stye
Styes are usually treated with eye drop antibiotics and severe cases with a prescription for oral antibiotics. Applying a hot compress to the eye for 10-15 minutes a few times throughout the day will bring some relief and speed up the healing process.
Similar to a pimple, the stye will likely rupture, drain and heal on its own. Occasionally a stye, especially one on the inside of the eyelid will not resolve itself and may require the assistance of an eye doctor for additional treatment. In such a case the stye is often surgically opened and drained to reduce the swelling and cosmetic issues associated with the style. Sometimes an injection of an anti-inflammatory medication is done.
You should never pop a stye! This can cause the bacteria to spread and worsen the infection. The infection can then spread around the top and bottom eyelids and even reach the brain. If a stye is getting worse, painful, or irritated, contact your eye doctor for treatment.
In cases where styes occur frequently, your eye doctor may decide to prescribe topical antibiotic ointment or a cleansing regimen to prevent recurrence.
Chalazia: Another type of bump on the eyelid
Similar to a stye, a chalazion is a blocked oil gland on the eyelid that becomes enlarged. The main difference between a chalazion and stye is that the chalazion is usually non-infectious. A chalazion in most occasions is an old hordeolum that did not resolve. Treatment involves lid hygiene, warm compresses, and lid massage. In most cases, a chalazion requires eye drops, injection of a steroid medication or surgical removal.