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Find out about styes, including what causes them, what you can do to treat them and when to see a GP.
StyeStyes are common and should clear up on their own within 1 or 2 weeks. They're rarely a sign of anything serious, but may be painful until they heal.
Check if you have a stye
A stye is a small, painful lump on or inside the eyelid or around the eye.
The skin around the stye may be swollen and red and the stye may be filled with yellow pus. The redness may be harder to see on brown and black skin.
Your eye may be red and watery but your vision should not be affected.
A stye usually only affects 1 eye, but it's possible to have more than 1 at a time.
It's probably not a stye if:
there's no lump – if your eye or eyelid is swollen, red and watery it's more likely to be conjunctivitis or blepharitis
the lump is hard but not very painful – it's more likely to be a chalazion
How you can treat a stye yourself
To reduce swelling and help the stye heal:
Soak a clean flannel in warm water.
Hold it against your eye for 5 to 10 minutes.
Repeat this 3 or 4 times a day.
To relieve the pain, take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to children under 16.
Avoid wearing contact lenses and eye make-up until the stye has burst and healed.
Do not burst a stye
Do not try to burst a stye or remove an eyelash yourself. This can spread the infection.
See a GP if your stye:
is very painful or swollen
does not get better within a few weeks
affects your vision Information:
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP
It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:
visit their website use the NHS App call them
Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19
Treatment from a GP
If you have a stye, the GP may:
burst the stye with a thin, sterilised needle
remove the eyelash closest to the stye
refer you to an eye specialist in hospital
You cannot always prevent a stye
Styes are often caused by bacteria infecting an eyelash follicle or eyelid gland.
You're also more likely to get a stye if you have long-term blepharitis or rosacea.
You can help avoid styes by keeping your eyes clean.
wash your face and remove eye make-up before bed
replace your eye make-up every 6 months
keep your eyelids and eyelashes clean, especially if you have blepharitis
do not share towels or flannels with someone who has a stye
do not rub your eyes if you have not recently washed your hands
do not put contact lenses in before washing your hands
Page last reviewed: 26 February 2021
Next review due: 26 February 2024
How Long Does a Stye Last? Treatment & When To See A Doctor
A stye is a painful red bump on the edge of your eyelid. Learn more about how long a stye may last and options for treatment.
Health guides > Stye > How Long Does a Stye Last
How Long Does a Stye Last?
By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed January 27, 2022
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is a Stye? What Causes a Stye?
How Quickly Does a Stye Go Away?
When to See a Doctor
How K Health Can Help
A stye (or hordeolum) is a painful, red bump that forms on your upper or lower eyelid and is usually due to a bacterial infection.
The condition can be uncomfortable and unsightly, but it’s very common—and usually harmless.
Most styes clear up with simple treatment within a few weeks.
Anyone can develop a stye, including children, but some people are more at risk than others.
In this article, I’ll explain more about what a stye is, how it’s caused, who is at more risk of getting one, and how styes can be treated.
I’ll also tell you how long styes usually last before going away, and when you should see a doctor about a stye or other eye infection.
What is a Stye?
Humans have small oil glands in their eyelids to help your eyes, skin, and eyelashes stay moist.
When one of the glands becomes clogged with dirt, debris, or dead skin cells, it becomes vulnerable to infection.
Germs like Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, usually found on human skin and inside the nose, enter the blocked oil gland and multiply.
This infection can cause the eyelid to become swollen, tender, and red.
This is called a stye. In medical terms, a stye is called a hordeolum.
They sometimes look like a pimple located on the edge of an eyelid.
Symptoms of a stye include:
Inflammation, swelling, or tenderness around the affected area on the eyelid
A small red bump, lump, or pustule that looks like a pimple
Eye discomfort or irritation
Feeling like dirt or dust are bothering your eyeball
A teary or watery eye
There are two types of eye styes that you can develop.
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When an eyelash follicle or sweat gland on your eyelid becomes infected, these styes form on the outside edges of your upper or lower eyelid.
External styes are the most common type of stye.
Internal styes form when one of your meibomian glands becomes blocked and infected.
These tiny oil glands line the inside of the eyelid and can lead to styes on the skin that touch the eye’s surface. Internal styes occur less frequently than external styes and can be more severe.
In most cases, both types of style will heal with time.
Some styes are stubborn or severe, and may need medical attention in rare cases.
If you have a stye that has lasted more than two weeks or feels like it’s getting worse instead of better, make an appointment with your eye doctor to discuss your treatment options.
What Causes a Stye?
Most styes are caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that is found on human skin and inside the nose.
When that bacteria invades a blocked gland or hair follicle, it proliferates, triggering an immune reaction that results in the inflammation of the eyelid and, eventually, a red, pus-filled nodule that is tender to the touch.
There is no way to prevent a stye from forming.
But taking steps to ensure that your eyelid glands are clear of any dirt, eye makeup, or debris is an excellent way to keep them from becoming blocked or infected.
Risk factors for developing a stye include:
Poor contact lens hygiene
Sleeping in contact lenses
Rubbing your eyes without washing your hands first
Excessive exposure to chlorine
Wearing lash extensions
Wearing old or contaminated eye makeup
Not washing your face enough
Having recurrent eye styes or other eye problems
Certain health conditions can also make some people more likely to develop styes.
They include: Rosacea Dry skin
Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff)
High blood sugar or diabetes
Hormonal changes High cholesterol
Poor or weakened immune system
How Quickly Does a Stye Go Away?
Most styes last from a few days to two weeks before beginning to heal.
Patients first start to experience discomfort, pain, or general inflammation in the affected area.
Then the infection localizes into a small, red, painful bump on the edge of the eyelid.
If a patient has a painless bump on their eyelid that develops slowly and lasts more than two weeks, they may have a chalazion.
A chalazion, sometimes called a meibomian cyst, is not a stye, but can be caused by one.
They often appear farther back on the eyelid than a stye, but can interfere with vision if it becomes large enough to press on your eye.
Will a stye go away on its own?
Most styes go away on their own within a few days, or up to two weeks.
Home treatments like a warm, clean washcloth applied to a closed eye a few times a day can help encourage a stye to drain.
Never attempt to pop or squeeze a stye, as that can spread bacteria to other parts of your face and lead to further infection.
If you have had a stye for two weeks and it isn’t going away, make an appointment with your eye doctor to discuss treatment options.
Internal Stye: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and More
Styes may be common, but how long does a stye actually last? Typically a stye only lasts a couple of days, but it can last a week or more in some cases. If your stye lasts longer or gets worse, see your doctor.
Do I Have Pink Eye or a Stye? How to Tell the Difference
Medically reviewed by Ann Marie Griff, O.D. — Written by Kathryn Watson on August 28, 2019
Two common eye infections are styes and pink eye (conjunctivitis). Both infections have symptoms of redness, watering eyes, and itching, so it can be hard to tell them apart.
The causes of these conditions are completely different. So is the recommended treatment.
Keep reading to learn about the similarities and differences between styes and pink eye. We’ll also review causes and treatment options for both types of infections, along with prevention tips and when to see a doctor.
The first step in determining what kind of eye infection you have is by evaluating your symptoms.
The main difference between a stye and pink eye is that a stye is characterized by a hard lump on the surface of your eyelid. Pink eye doesn’t typically cause lumps, pimples, or boils around your eye area.
Symptoms of pink eye include:
inflammation and redness on your eyelid
tearing or pus around your eye
redness on the whites of your eyes or inner eyelid
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Redness and tearing are common in pink eye (conjunctivitis).
Symptoms of an eyelid stye include:
pain in or around your eye
a raised, red lump on your eyelid
sensitivity to light
eye pus or tearing redness
a gritty feeling in your eye
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External styes are more common than internal styes. They often appear as a pimple on the edge of your eyelid.
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Internal styes begin in an oil gland within your eyelid tissue. They push on your eye as they grow, so they tend to be more painful than external styes.
The next step in identifying what’s causing your eye discomfort is asking yourself what the cause could be. Pink eye and a stye sometimes look similar, but they appear for different reasons.
There are several different types of pink eye, each with a different cause.
Viruses, bacteria, or allergens commonly cause pink eye. Pink eye can refer to any inflammation or infection of the clear membrane that covers your eyelid.
Other causes of pink eye include:
environmental toxins (such as smoke or dust)
irritation from contact lenses
foreign bodies (like dirt or an eyelash) irritating the lining of your eyelid
On the other hand, an infection of the oil glands on your eyelid causes styes. Styes are characterized by a red lump around the site of the affected gland or eyelash follicle. These lumps can look like a pimple or a boil.
Activities that introduce bacteria to your eye can lead to a stye, such as:
sleeping with makeup on
frequently rubbing your eyes
trying to extend the life of disposable contacts
How to treat pink eye
In some cases of pink eye, you can use home remedies to relieve symptoms until the infection clears.
Here are some suggestions:
Apply cold compresses to your eye to reduce inflammation.
Use artificial tear eye drops.
Wash your hands before touching your eyes.
Wash all of your bedding to avoid reinfecting your eyes.
Avoid wearing contact lenses until infection symptoms are gone.
If home treatment doesn’t relieve your symptoms, you may need to see an eye doctor. They may prescribe antibiotic treatment for bacterial pink eye.
How to treat a stye
Treatment for a stye centers around clearing the blockage from your infected oil gland.
To treat a stye yourself, the Academy of American Ophthalmology recommends you apply clean, warm compresses to the area. Do this for 15-minute intervals up to five times per day. Don’t try to squeeze or pop the stye.
If the stye doesn’t go away after a few days, see a doctor. They may need to prescribe an antibiotic. In some cases, an eye doctor needs to drain a stye to remove it. Don’t attempt this yourself, as you could permanently damage your vision.
Speak to a doctor if you’re concerned about a stye that’s not going away.
Preventing styes and pink eye
Taking good care of your eyes can help you prevent eye infections. Here are some tips to help you avoid both styes and pink eye:
Wash your hands often, especially if you work with young children or take care of animals.
Wash off eye makeup at the end of each day with an oil-free makeup remover.
Wash your face with warm water at the end of each day.
Wash your bedding frequently, especially your pillows.
Don’t share items that touch your eyes, including towels, washcloths, and cosmetics.
When to see a doctor
See a doctor for an eye infection that doesn’t appear to be improving after 48 hours of symptoms. Other signs you need to see a doctor include: