Styes are boils that develop on the eyelid. They occur when an eyelash follicle becomes infected and fills with pus. Most styes form along the edge of the eyelid. A red lump appears and may be accompanied by pain, swelling and tearing in the affected eye.
Sometimes chalazions can be mistaken for styes since the two have similar traits. Chalazions are lumps that form when the meibomian gland in the eyelid becomes clogged with oil. Like styes, chalazions develop near the eye, although they usually form further away from the eyelid edge, are larger and are not typically painful.
Most styes and other boils can be managed at home and rarely require treatment by a dermatologist. Start by applying a warm compress made by soaking a clean washcloth in hot water. Press it gently against the affected area for approximately 15 minutes, up to four times a day. This encourages the stye to open, releasing the pus. Avoid squeezing the stye since this can cause the infection to spread.
If the stye is painful, a mild pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may provide relief. Avoid wearing contact lenses and eye makeup until the stye is completely healed.
Most styes resolve without medical intervention. If there is no improvement after 2-3 days, or the infection begins to spread to your cheek – consult your dermatologist.
Styes that don’t heal or worsen may require antibiotic eyedrops or pills. In some cases, your dermatologist may need to open the stye to drain the pus and promote healing. Never try to open a stye yourself at home.