A stye in the eye is a tender, red bump on the edge of the eyelid. It is one of those minor but uncomfortable health issues that can strike anytime. While it lasts, it can be annoying and sometimes painful. Here’s a quick primer that will help you deal with a stye in the eye.
What Is A Stye?
A stye is essentially a bacterial infection on the eyelid that appears quite suddenly and can disappear rapidly too. The bacteria that most frequently causes a stye is called Staphylococcus aureus or staph. A stye manifests as a red bump on the eyelid, pus-filled and tender to the touch. You may also have symptoms such as tearing of the eye, sensitivity to light, and a gritty sensation in the eye.1
Usually, a stye develops in one eye. However, it can sometimes develop in both eyes. It’s also possible to have more than one stye at a time in an eye.2
What Causes A Stye?
Here are some typical reasons that cause a stye:
- A stye pops up near the base of an eyelash if a bacterial infection occurs at the site. In medical terms, a stye is known as an external hordeolum.
- Another reason for a stye to develop is if one of the minuscule oil glands lying inside or beneath the eyelid gets infected. Such a stye is called an internal hordeolum.
- Blepharitis, an inflammation occurring at the borders of the eyelid, is also a cause for styes.3
- A stye becomes a chalazion, which is a large and hard bump, if the eye’s oil gland gets completely blocked. A chalazion can affect your eyesight.4
Who Is Most Likely To Get A Stye?
A stye can afflict everyone. However, some people are more at risk of getting a stye than others. If you wear contact lenses, do not maintain hygiene around the eye area, or use old/contaminated eye makeup, you could develop a stye. Skin conditions such as rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis, and diabetes may also trigger a stye in the eye.5
Best Home Remedies For Styes On Eyes
Generally, a stye clears up on its own within a week to 20 days. But there are several home remedy options you can try to help you through the discomfort or pain that you may have.6
1. Use A Warm Compress
This is arguably the most favored home treatment for a stye. Dip a clean, folded piece of cloth in hot water, squeeze and apply over the stye for several minutes. Avoid using very hot water with children. Now, massage the infected area gently with a clean finger. Repeat the warm compress 3–4 times a day. Also, clean the eye area gently, keeping it free of crusty deposits.
How It Works: The heat from the compress loosens the pus and allows it to drain away, offering you quick relief from pain.7
2. Try Natural Remedies
Practitioners of alternative/complementary medicine recommend various ways to treat a stye. Some such remedies use ingredients readily available at home, while certain herbs or homeopathic preparations will have to be sourced from specialist stores. While several of these treatments are popularly practiced in different cultures, it is a good idea to consult a qualified herbalist or ayurvedic physician before you try out any of them at home.
Here’s an easy-to-make potato poultice from naturopathy for treating a stye.
How To Make: Grate a potato, wrap it in gauze and place on the affected part for 15 minutes. Repeat 4 times daily until the infection subsides, using freshly grated potato for each poultice.8
How It Works: Potato has a soothing and cooling effect on the inflammation and helps to draw the infection to a head.9
For this herb decoction, you will need to make a mixture with equal parts of:
- Blue flag (Iris versicolor)
- Cleavers (Galium aparine)
- Echinacea (E. app)
- Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
- Poke rot (Phytolacca Americana)
How To Make: Add 1 teaspoonful of this herb mixture to a cup of water. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Cool, strain the liquid, and drink 1 cup three times a day.
How It Works: The herbs constituting this medicine have antimicrobial and detoxifying properties that help to resolve the infection.10
This external application uses just one herb, eyebright, to make an eyewash/poultice for your stye.
How To Make: Simmer a pint of water with 1 tablespoon of eyebright for about 10 minutes. Allow the decoction to cool. Use as an eyewash or soak a piece of gauze in the liquid and place over the affected eye area for 10–15 minutes. Repeat this daily, 2–3 times.11
How It Works: Eyebright has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. It is widely used in naturopathy and homeopathy to treat several eye disorders.12
3. Turn To Homeopathy
Staphysagria is a recommended homeopathic medicine for styes, especially recurrent ones.13
How To Take: Usually a medicine with 6x or 12x potency is recommended 2–3 times daily when the stye is most painful or swollen. The medicine needs to be stopped when symptoms reduce. Remember, homeopathic treatments must be started under the guidance of an expert.14
How It Works: Staphysagria has anti-inflammatory properties that help to ease the pain and discomfort of a stye.15
4. Get Help From Ayurveda
Try Triphala (“three fruits”), a versatile remedy from Ayurveda that addresses a host of ailments. This widely prescribed preparation consists of the fruit of three herbs – amalaki (Emblica Officinalis), haritaki (Terminalia chebula) and bibihitaki (Terminalia belerica). The 3 are ground and blended to a powder.
You will need:
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered triphala
- 1/2 cup water
How To Make: Boil the triphala powder in water for just 3 minutes. Let it cool and strain with cheesecloth/coffee filter paper. First, wash the affected eye with cool water one or twice daily. Then, soak a cotton swab in the strained liquid and squeeze over the eyes, allowing the decoction to rinse the eye. Alternatively, pour some of the liquid into your cupped palm and bend over, allowing your eye to touch the liquid. Blink several times to let the liquid wash over the eye area.
5. Conventional Medical Interventions For Styes
There’s little medical evidence that antibiotics work effectively against styes and hence physicians do not usually recommend this line of treatment.17 However, if your stye does not respond to home care or keeps cropping up frequently, it’s quite likely your doctor may recommend a topical antibiotic.18 They may also recommend drugs such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain while the stye lasts.
If your stye appears to affect your vision or persists, you may need surgery. This is usually performed under local anesthesia and helps to drain out the pus. If your stye problem is particularly persistent, your ophthalmologist may even recommend a biopsy to make sure there is no underlying trigger.19
Dos And Don’ts When You Have A Stye
The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus normally lives on our skin and is usually harmless, but it can set off an infection if it penetrates damaged skin. If you have a stye, follow these steps to prevent the infection from spreading:20 21
- Throw away all cloth compresses into a bin so that no one else touches them.
- Wash your hands several times a day.
- Never try squeezing pus out of a stye. If the stye hasn’t reached the stage of bursting, squeezing may cause pus to move into tissue near the stye, allowing the infection to spread.
- Avoid touching or rubbing the stye.
- Avoid using contact lenses or eye cosmetics while you have a stye.
How To Prevent Styes
- Use warm compresses as part of your regular eye cleansing routine to help prevent infection of any kind.22
- If you have a tendency to get styes, cleanse your eyelids with a solution of lukewarm water and baby shampoo. This helps remove any excess oil around the eyelids.23
- A cotton bud dipped in baby shampoo solution can also be used to clean the eyelid when there is an existing stye as it helps unblock the oil ducts. It does sting though!24
- To help prevent the eye’s oil glands from getting blocked, you could take fish oil supplements.25 According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil can improve the functioning of the eye’s oil glands. Do check with your physician before starting on these supplements though.26
When Should You See A Doctor?
If a stye doesn’t go away by itself or your self-care remedies haven’t dissolved the stye within 1–2 weeks27, it may be time to visit an eye specialist. Here are some conditions when you should exercise this option28 29:
- Your vision seems to be getting affected.
- The eyelid bump has increased in size or become very painful.
- You feel as if there’s something in your eye.
- There’s scaling and crusty deposits on the eyelid.
- The entire eyelid becomes red (or the eye too is red).
- Your eyes are overly sensitive to light.
- The bump on your eye starts to bleed.
- Another stye grows soon after one disappears.
Eat Healthy For Eye Health
Perhaps the best way to prevent any eye infection is to eat foods that promote eye health. Antioxidants in certain vitamins and minerals help to keep the tissues and cells of the eyes healthy. Eating fruits and vegetables rich in these antioxidants is essential for the body to stave off infections. Check out this list to see what you can include in your diet.
|Antioxidant||Rich Food Sources|
|Lutein & Zeaxanthin||Eggs, broccoli, zucchini, leafy greens, corn|
|Vitamin C||Red berries, tomatoes, reen and red bell-
guava, orange, grapefruit
|Vitamin E||Vegetable oil, nuts, avocado, wheat germ, green
|Vitamin A||Carrots, sweet potatoes,
|Essential Fatty Acids||Salmon, flax seeds, walnut|
|Zinc||Red meat, poultry, dairy
products, dried beans30
|↑1, ↑4, ↑23, ↑25, ↑27, ↑29||Eyelid Bump. U.S. National Library Of Medicine.|
|↑2, ↑6, ↑7, ↑17, ↑22||Stye. NHS Choices.|
|↑3||What Causes Chalazia And Styes?. American Academy Of Ophthalmology.|
|↑5, ↑28||Stye. University of Rochester Medical Center.|
|↑8, ↑10, ↑11, ↑14||Marohn, Stephanie. The Natural Medicine First Aid Remedies: Self-Care Treatments for 100+ Common Conditions. Hampton Roads Publishing, 2001.|
|↑9||Kloss, Jethro. Back to Eden: a human interest story of health and restoration to be found in herb, root, and bark. Lotus Press, 1989.|
|↑12||Paduch, Roman, Anna Woźniak, Piotr Niedziela, and Robert Rejdak. “Assessment of eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis L.) extract activity in relation to human corneal cells using in vitro tests.” Balkan medical journal 31, no. 1 (2014): 29.|
|↑13, ↑24||Eye Conditions. British Homeopathic Association.|
|↑15||Bhalerao, Rupali Dixit, Subhranil Saha, and Munmun Koley. “Research highlights (January-June 2015).” Indian Journal of Research in Homoeopathy 9, no. 2 (2015): 125.|
|↑16||Patel, Sheila. Explore One of Ayurveda’s Most Popular Herbs: Triphala. The Chopra Center.|
|↑18||Watkinson, Sue. “Seewoodhary, Ramesh. Managing common eye disorders in the outpatient.” Issues in Ophthalmic Practice: Current and Future Challenges. M&K Update Ltd, 2009.|
|↑19, ↑21||Chalazia And Stye Treatment. American Academy Of Ophthalmology.|
|↑20||Styes. Better Health Channel.|
|↑26||Can Fish Oil help Dry Eye? American Academy of Ophthalmology.|
|↑30||Look To Fruits And Vegetables for Good Eye Health. New York State Dept. of Health.|