What is a stye?
There are two types of stye:
External style (external hordeolum). This is the common stye. It appears along the edge of the eyelid due to infection in the root (follicle) of an eyelash. It may start off as a small red lump but, as it develops into a little abscess (collection of pus), it looks like a yellow pus-filled spot.
Internal stye (internal hordeolum). These are also called meibomian styes. They happens when a type of gland in the eyelid (meibomian gland) becomes infected. This type of stye is found on the inner surface of the eyelid, against the eyeball.
Styes usually develop quite quickly, over a few days. Usually only one eye is affected, though you may get more than one stye at a time, on the same lid. Styes are painful but they usually get better on their own within a week or two.
What causes styes?
A stye usually occurs for no apparent reason. The usual bacterium (germ) that causes the infection is called Staphylococcus aureus. This is a common bacterium that is often found on healthy skin. It usually does no harm, but sometimes it invades the skin to cause infections such as boils, abscesses, and styes.
Some people have an eyelid condition called blepharitis. This is an inflammation of the eyelids that can make you more prone to developing styes. See separate leaflet called 'Blepharitis' for more information.
What is the treatment for a stye?
No treatment is often necessary. Once a 'head' has formed on the stye, most burst within 3-4 days, and the tiny amount of pus drains away leaving no further problem.
Hot compresses may help to ease soreness and draw the pus to a head. Hold a clean flannel, that has been in hot water, gently but firmly against the closed eye. Do this for 5-10 minutes, 3-4 times a day. (The water should be hot, but comfortable and not scalding.)
Epilation of the eyelash means that the eyelash is plucked out. This is uncomfortable but can help the infection from the hair follicle to drain. This only works for an external stye.
Incision and drainage can be performed by a professional. This is like lancing a boil. A sterile needle (or perhaps a scalpel) can be used to open the stye and drain the pus. This should not be attempted by yourself as you might spread the infection to the eyelid, with serious consequences.
Hygiene Care reduces the risk of spreading the bacteria, care should be taken with sharing hand/face towels. Also washing hands with hot soapy water will reduce the risk of cross infection.