An eye with a stye


When a stye forms on your eyelid, it can cause pain, swelling, and other uncomfortable symptoms.

While styes are annoying, they are harmless and typically clear up on their own within a few days. 

How do I know if I have a stye?

An eye with a stye

Styes are Typically Accompanied by Swelling and Discomfort

A Lump on the Eyelid

Typically, a stye appears as a lump on the top or bottom eyelid near the lashes. Similar in shape to a pimple, they can be red, white, or yellowish.


Localized swelling on the eyelid is a common symptom of a stye. The swollen lid may be tender or interfere with vision.

Pain and Redness

A stye may make your eye red and uncomfortable. Pain, burning, or a scratchy sensation on the eyeball are all typical. Often, patients feel as if they have something stuck in their eye.

Red, swollen eyes may indicate a stye, especially if you have a pimple-like bump on your eyelid.

Stress, Medical Issues, and Other Factors Can Raise Your Risk for Styes

A range of factors can increase the risk of a stye forming, including:

  • Poor eyelid hygiene
  • Improper removal of eye makeup
  • Rosacea
  • Contaminated or old cosmetics
  • Inserting contact lenses with dirty hands
  • Inflammatory disease, such as blepharitis
  • Eczema

Hormonal changes can also raise the risk of developing a stye. 

So what actually causes the stye?

Blocked and Infected Glands


When bacteria from your skin is transferred into the glands on your eyelids, it can cause an infection resulting in a stye.


In some cases, the glands in or on the eyelids become plugged. Any foreign substance, such as scar tissue, makeup, or dust, can block the glands and cause a stye to form

Most styes are the result of a staph infection. These infections are caused by bacteria often found in the nose, respiratory tract, or on the skin.

Taking Care of Your Eyes Can Minimize Your Risk for Styes

Avoid Touching Your Eyes

Keeping your hands away from your eyes can go a long way towards preventing styes. If you do have to touch your eye, make sure to wash your hands first with soap and warm water.

Be Careful with Cosmetics

Throwing away old cosmetics and taking your makeup off before bed are two good methods of maintaining the health of your eyelids. You should also avoid sharing cosmetics with others. 

Keep Your Lenses Clean

If you wear contact lenses, wash your hands thoroughly before inserting them and follow disinfection instructions carefully

Styes Are Easy to Identify

Usually, a doctor can diagnose a stye simply by looking at your eyelid. They may use a slit lamp to examine your eye as well. 

doctor examining patient's eye with slit lamp
A slit lamp can help your doctor rule out other conditions.

Typically, doctors also ask about injuries and previous eye issues or surgeries to get a sense of your medical history. Explaining your eyelid and facial hygiene habits can also help with diagnosis. 

Most Styes Go Away on Their Own after a Few Days


In many cases, leaving the stye alone for several days is all the treatment required. Your doctor may advise you to clean your eyelid or stop wearing contact lenses during this time to help it heal.

Warm Compresses

Placing a warm washcloth over the affected eye can help relieve inflammation so your stye heals more quickly. You can apply the compress for about five to 10 minutes two to three times a day.


If your stye does not heal on its own, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic eye drop, cream, or tablet to clear the infection.


For persistent styes, your doctor may make a small incision to drain the pus. This minor procedure can expedite healing and relieve pain and swelling.

Most Styes Are Harmless, But Have Persistent Styes Checked Out

In general, styes are not serious and will clear up within a few days. If your stye does not start to improve after 48 hours, contact a doctor. You should also visit an ophthalmologist if redness and swelling begin to spread beyond your eyelid.


Sheth Horsley Eye Center

The ophthalmologists at Sheth Horsley Eye Center have been serving the community's eye care needs for over 50 years. Our doctors are members of various prestigious organizations, including:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • International Society of Refractive Surgery
  • American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery
  • American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin

To schedule a consultation at one of our three office locations, request an appointment online or call us at (781) 979-0960.

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