Symptoms and Signs of Sty (Stye)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/19/2021

Doctor's Notes on Sty (Stye)

sty (or stye) is a localized infection causing inflammation of the edge of the eyelid, typically involving the eyelash hair follicles or eyelid glands (Meibomian glands). The medical term for sty is hordeolum. Infection with the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is the most common cause of a sty.

A sty produces characteristic signs and symptoms. There is usually a bump or lump on the eyelid margin that resembles a pimple or boil. Associated symptoms may include:

  • eyelid swelling,
  • pain in the eyelids,
  • redness of the overlying skin,
  • swelling of the eyelid, and
  • increased tear production.

There may also be a sense of having a foreign body in the eye. A sty can be located on the exterior (facing outward) or interior surface of the eyelid.

What Is the Treatment for Sty (Stye)?

Typical treatment for a sty consists of applying warm compresses to the affected eye for 10-15 minutes 4 times a day for several days. When the sty comes to a head, warm compresses should continue to be applied to relieve pressure and promote rupture, but the sty should not be squeezed.

Antibiotics may be prescribed for a recurrent sty. In some cases, an ophthalmologist may need to drain a sty using local anesthesia.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.