How are styes treated?
A stye is a red lump that appears at the edge of the eyelid, caused by an infection at the base of an eyelash. It may grow larger and develop a white or yellow spot at the top, which means there is pus within the stye. If the skin is damaged around your eye, it may be more at risk of infection. The bacteria causing these styes often reside naturally in the skin and can be transferred to the eyelid by touching mucus from the nose area and then rubbing the eye. Styes are actually fairly common and although it might look and feel painful, they usually cause no lasting damage to the eye, eyelids or vision. If they do persist and become worse it's important to see your optometrist or healthcare professional, but most styes will clear up on their own. Typically, a stye will take between one and three weeks to get better by itself, but there are other treatment options available if you wish to remove it more quickly or it becomes more severe.
Treatment methods for styes
If you want to get rid of your stye more quickly, using a warm compress against it will help to speed up the rupturing process, enabling the pus to drain away and the stye to heal. Simply take a washcloth or flannel and soak it in warm water. Hold this up to the affected eye for around 10-15 minutes and repeat four to six times a day. Remember to keep your eye closed during the warm compress. The heat will encourage any pus to come to the surface, so the fluid can be released and the healing process can begin. If the stye is persistent and does not go away on its on, you may need to see a doctor who can manually drain the pus with the aid of local anaesthesia. They will use a needle to create an incision in the stye that the pus can flow through. Sometimes styes can recur frequently, in which case you may be prescribed an antibiotic ointment to place on the affected area.
A stye may cause considerable pain and discomfort, depending on the size, placement and other factors. You can take an over-the-counter painkiller such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to alleviate these painful symptoms, but make sure to follow the directions on the label. If the pain doesn't subside, you should see your doctor or optometrist for more help. An internal stye on the inside surface of the eyelid is more rare, but if it does occur and becomes large or painful you will also need to see your optometrist immediately.
Treating styes: What not to do!
The most important thing to remember is that you should never try to break or rupture the stye yourself through pushing, squeezing or poking. This can make the condition worse as it could potentially spread the bacteria around the eyelid. You should also avoid trying to pull out the affected eyelash yourself. If the infection spreads to the rest of the eyelids it may cause blepharitis or inflammation of these tissues. It's also important not to spread the infection to others, so ensure no one can come into contact with anything you might have contaminated - such as a discarded warm compression pad or used towels. Sometimes a stye that doesn't drain or heal properly can turn into chalazia, which are typically larger and may not cause any pain. They can give your eyelid a 'bumpy' appearance. Chalazia are treated in the same way as styes, but you may wish to see your doctor or optometrist more quickly if you have several.