If you have a small, red, tender bump inside or outside your eyelid, it's probably a stye. It looks like a pimple, and it can be sore. But it's not usually serious and won't affect how you see.
A stye happens when the area at the base of your eyelashes or one of the glands along your eyelid becomes clogged and irritated -- like a skin gland on your face gets clogged and irritated and becomes a pimple. People usually have it on just one eyelid, but you can have one in both eyes at the same time. A stye may be a one-time thing, but some people have lots of them.
When you first get a stye, you may have redness or a tender feeling near your eyelid. Here are other signs:
- A red bump with a small puss spot in the center
- The feeling that there's something in your eye
- Your eye feels sensitive to bright light
- Crust along the eyelid
- A scratchy or itchy feeling around the eye
- Your eye makes extra tears
After several days, most styes burst and go away on their own. But cleaning it will help bring the puss out. Then it will drain on its own. You can do a few things to get rid of it faster:
- Soak a clean washcloth in very warm water and put it over the stye (wash your hands first). Do this for 5 to 10 minutes several times a day. Gently massage the area while the washcloth is over your eye.
- Clean your eyelid with a cotton swab soaked in watered-down baby ("no tears") shampoo every day or two. Don't use regular soap or shampoo -- it will burn.
- Keep your face and eyes very clean, and get rid of any crust you see around your eye.
Because the stye looks like a pimple, you might want to squeeze it. Don't do that. It can make things worse.
Don't wear eye makeup, and switch to glasses if you wear contacts. After the stye has healed, make sure you clean and disinfect your contact lenses in the solutions recommended by your eye doctor. Or, better yet, go with a new pair of lenses.
When to Call Your Doctor
You shouldn't have to see your doctor for a stye. But it's a good idea to make an appointment if:
- It doesn't get better after a few days, or it gets worse.
- Your eye (not just your eyelid) hurts a lot.
- You can't see well.
- Your eyelid swells, turns very red, and won't open completely.
- You keep getting styes.
If the stye won't go away on its own or if you have trouble seeing, your doctor may give you an antibiotic cream or drain the stye after numbing the area around it.
If you get styes often, scrub your eyelids every couple of days with watered-down baby shampoo on a washcloth, or use an over-the-counter lid scrub.