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- While not generally serious, styes — the medical term is hordeolum — are painful and unsightly.
- You can speed up the healing process, as well as reduce the pain, with simple at-home treatments.
- Those prone to frequent styes might benefit from regular cleaning with an eyelid scrub, such as Ocusoft Lid Scrub Wipes.
Your eyelids are lined with tiny oil ducts that produce sebum, as well as eyelashes sprouting from hair follicles. Occasionally, oil, dead skin cells, or most often, bacteria, clog an eyelid oil duct or follicle. The result is a stye, which is basically an eyelid pimple.
Styes can crop up on upper or lower eyelids, and while most are on the outer edge, there are styes — called internal hordeolums — that develop on the inner surface of the eyelid, as well.
Early symptoms generally include tenderness, slight swelling, and redness in the affected area. As inflammation increases, the stye tends to grow into a larger lump, often with a yellowish center. Your entire eyelid might swell, and the redness can be very pronounced.
Along with pain, it’s common to experience grittiness or a sensation of "something in the eye," excessive tearing, crustiness or stickiness along the affected eyelid margin, sensitivity to light, and discomfort when blinking. It is not normal for a stye to cause vision changes, such as blurriness.
While styes, left to their own devices, tend to heal on their own within a week or so, you can speed the process up and reduce the pain with simple at-home treatments. However, if the stye persists beyond a week, is extremely painful, interferes with your vision, or the swelling and redness spread beyond your eyelid, it’s time for a visit to your eye doctor or general care practitioner.
Here’s how to treat a stye:
- Don’t use contact lenses or makeup while you have a stye. You don’t want to transfer the bacteria — most commonly, it’s Staphylococcus aureus, which is the bug behind many skin infections, as well as more serious internal infections — into your eyeshadow or onto your contacts.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching the stye, and keep your hands away as much as possible. Resist the temptation to squeeze or "pop" the stye, as this is an easy way to spread the infection into other nearby follicles or oil glands.
- Apply a warm washcloth to your eyelid several times per day, holding it in place for five to 10 minutes each time. The washcloth should be warm enough to encourage the stye to open up and drain, but not hot enough to burn your skin. The warmth will also help relieve the pain.
- After applying heat, very gently massage the stye to encourage it to open and drain the pus. Do not squeeze or pick at the sore, though.
- Wash your eyelids each morning with a gentle cleanser specifically made for the eye area. We like Ocusoft Lid Scrub Wipes, which help remove the sticky or gritty debris along your lids caused by the stye. If you are prone to recurrent styes, it’s a good idea to incorporate the wipes into your daily grooming routine.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, if desired, to help reduce swelling and pain.
- Avoid sharing your bath towel with family members while you — or they — have a stye, as the staph bacteria easily travels from person to person in this way.
- Prevent a reoccurrence of the stye by always washing hands before touching the eye area or applying makeup. Remove all makeup before going to bed, and never share your eye makeup — that’s an easy way to transmit staph bacteria. If despite your precautions, you continue to develop styes, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment as a preventative.
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