What Causes an Eye Stye?

Reviewed on 6/30/2021

A stye on the eye is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Risk factors include underlying skin conditions (acne rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis), eye makeup, inflammation of the eyelid (blepharitis), diabetes/medical problems, allergies, and rubbing the eyes.
A stye on the eye is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Risk factors include underlying skin conditions (acne rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis), eye makeup, inflammation of the eyelid (blepharitis), diabetes/medical problems, allergies, and rubbing the eyes.

A stye (also called a hordeolum) on the eye is a small, red, painful lump that forms at the base of an eyelash or under the eyelid. 

Most eye styes are caused by bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus bacteria is commonly found in the nose and does not usually cause problems, but in some cases, if the bacteria are present in your nose and you rub your nose and then your eye, this can transfer the infection to the eye and result in a stye

Risk factors for developing a stye include: 

A stye may be:

  • External 
    • Forms at the base of an eyelash
    • Commonly caused by an infection in the hair follicle
    • May look like a pimple
  • Internal 
    • Forms inside the eyelid
    • Usually caused by an infection in an oil-producing gland in the eyelid

A stye is not the same as a chalazion, which also causes a lump on the eyelid. A chalazion is not tender or painful, is not caused by an infection, and it usually lasts longer than a stye.

What Are Symptoms of a Stye?

Symptoms of a stye include: 

  • Red and painful lump on the edge of the eyelid
    • Usually develops over a few days
    • May look like a pimple with a small pus spot at the center of the bump
  • Eye tearing
  • Yellowish eye discharge
  • Eyelid pain and swelling    
  • Feeling as if something is in the eye
  • Gritty or scratchy feeling in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Crustiness along the edge of the eyelid 

How Is a Stye in the Eye Treated?

A stye may be treated with home care in some cases, to help relieve symptoms and reduce the healing time. Home remedies to treat a stye include: 

  • Warm, wet compress
    • Soak a clean washcloth in hot water and hold it to the eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes
    • Repeat 3 to 5 times daily
  • Gently massage around the area with a clean finger to help the gland clear itself 
  • Do not:
    • Wear eye makeup or contact lenses until the stye is healed
    • Squeeze or pop a stye, which can make it worse and spread the infection into the eyelid

If a stye doesn’t improve within 48 hours or symptoms worsen, medical treatment may include: 

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Reviewed on 6/30/2021
References
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/stye-hordeolum-the-basics?search=stye&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~28&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/eyelid-lesions?search=hordeolum&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~28&usage_type=default&display_rank=1#H130613690

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-are-chalazia-styes