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How to Treat Stye (Painful Red Bump on Eye)?

How to treat stye
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mavra Farrukh


It is an acute infection mostly of the glands of eyelids by bacteria, commonly due to mites (Demodex) from the skin of the eyelid.

These are common eye infections. It is a small lump on or around the eye. Mostly it affects only one eye but as there are a number of glands in the eyelid,  it can be more than one at a time, stye on the upper eyelid, stye on the lower eyelid, and look like a pimple on the waterline or affect both eyes as well.

Stye in the eye is more common in children or people with dry eyes. It is formed if one of your eyelid glands is clogged and the secretions start to accumulate in them.  It can be confused with a chalazion or blepharitis. 

In most cases, it will resolve in a few days. If it does not, it may need treatment. 

What Does a Stye or Red Bump on Eye Mean?

A localized, red, swollen, acutely tender eye follicle infection on the upper or lower eyelid,  can be a stye.

Medically known as External Hordeolum, if on the outside of the lid is usually small and on the lid margin and is an abscess of the gland of Zeis in the eyelid. It looks like a pimple or boils on the eyelid. Commonly also termed zits on eyelids. 

Internal Hordeolum, is present on the inside of the eyelid in the meibomian gland. It can lead to cellulitis( edema ) of the eyelid. Stye inside the eyelid may also at times require antibiotic treatment to resolve.

Symptoms of Stye 

In general, a stye presents as a red lump or pimple on the eyelid. They may vary from person to person and may be associated with the following other signs and symptoms: 

  • Eyelid pain
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Tearing
  • Gritty feeling in my eye 
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Redness and soreness at the edge of eye 
  • Pus from swelling 
  • Crusting 

These symptoms are usually associated with external stye but can be a sign of other eye infections as well. It is advisable to discuss it with your doctor if you experience them.

Having a painful, red lump on the eye? Consult one of our doctors now to discuss if it is a Stye

What Causes Styes?

Stye is usually caused by clogged oil glands of the eyelids which lead to the accumulation of secretions and then infection. The common causes are as :

1. Clogged by Dead Skin or Old Oil

  • This leads to the accumulation of secretions and infection by skin commensals. When the glands become clogged with dead skin or old oil, the bacteria get trapped inside, multiply and cause infection. 

2. Bacterial Infection 

  • The most common causative organism is Staphylococcus aureus. It commonly lives on the skin of people and is usually harmless. But when it is trapped in the clogged gland it becomes a source of infection. Other bacteria that are present on the skin can also cause the infection.  

3. Skin Mites 

  • It can also be caused in people who suffer from dry eyes or chronic blepharitis, conditions caused by Demodex or skin mites.

4. Poor Hygiene 

  • People rubbing their eyes with dirty hands. Poor hygiene has always been associated with infections. Also, persons who experience allergies or hay fever can develop styes. Constant rubbing transfers the bacteria from skin into the gland leading to infection. 

5. Other Skin Conditions 

6. Other Medical Conditions

  • People with autoimmune conditions, diabetes, or other chronic conditions also develop stye because they are more prone to infections, their weak immunity cannot ward off infections effectively. 

7. Use of Contaminated Utensils or Makeup 

  • Sharing a contaminated towel or mascara can lead to infection. You should replace your makeup routinely to prevent infections: 
    • Mascara: 3 months
    • Liquid Eyeliner: 3 months
    • Solid Eye Pencil: 2 to 3 years

8. Leaving Makeup on Overnight 

  • Leaving makeup overnight can lead to the clogging of pores and the growth of bacteria inside. It is advised to remove makeup before you sleep.

9. Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

  • It is very common and many people do not know they have it. It leads to the evaporation of natural tears of eyes, leading to dry eyes. This is a risk factor for stye.
Having a stye and difficulty with vision? Seek help from one of our doctors now to discuss Treatment and remedies.

How to Diagnose a Stye?

1. History 

  • A doctor usually makes a diagnosis just by examination and history. The patient reports a painful swelling on the eyelid that started as oedema or irritation and then later localized to a painful pimple on eyelid. A history of similar episodes may be present in the past. 
  • Systemic signs and symptoms are extremely rare in stye. Though patients may feel irritable or have a mild malaise. 
  • In extreme cases, the infection can lead to inflammation and edema of the entire eyelid or surrounding tissue. In such a case, conservative treatment is not effective and may need an Intravenous antibiotic and is treated as periorbital cellulitis. 
  • No special tests or investigations are usually required to diagnose a stye.

2. Physical Examination 

  • The doctor may use a light or magnifying device for examination or “flip” the eyelid to look under it before making a diagnosis. 
  • Examination of the periocular area, conjunctival surfaces, and eyelid is performed. It helps to differentiate external from the internal stye.
  • The examination may show a localized, red, swollen area with a pointing white spot on top either on the inside or outside of the eyelid.
  • Palpation of lymph nodes is also carried out to see the spread, though it is a very rare complication. In case of severe disease further eye examination including slit lamp, visual acuity, and dilated fundoscopic examination is carried out to rule out the spread of disease. 

What is the Fastest Way to Cure a Stye?

It is said that prevention is better than cure. The following hygiene is the best method to prevent it from happening in the first place, but if it does occur you can try the following to help it cure at the earliest.

Stye self-care includes the following steps: 

  • Heat up filtered water (never use hot water since this could burn the delicate skin around the eyes)
  • Soak a clean cloth in the water
  • Keep it on the affected eye with the eye closed
  • For effective results, keep the compress on for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Repeat the process 2 to 4 times/per day 
  • Utilize a clean finger to gently massage the stye in order to remove the oil gland

The process of Warm Compress not only helps the stye go away more quickly, but it can also nullify some of your pain and inflammation.  Black tea, teabag has both antibacterial properties and tannin in it which helps reduce eye infections.

What Should You Not Do with a Stye?

There are some actions you need to avoid as doing these  could worsen the problem:

  • Never pop a stye. Risk of further infection could be increased by doing this and that could spread into the eye
  • Keep the eye area clean
  • Avoid contact lenses
  • Avoid makeup
You should reach out to Your Doctors Online incase your stye doesn’t get better in 48 hours

Treatment of Stye 

As stated previously, most styes go away on their own in about  7 -14 days.

1. Oral Antibiotics:

Oral antibiotics e.g. Chloramphenicol discussed later in detail, can be used if the stye isn’t healing on its own.

2. Warm compresses :

A warm compress is the primary home remedy for a stye. You can make one by soaking a washcloth in hot water until it is warm enough to tolerate on your skin and will not cause damage to the eye. A warm compress can:

  • Liquify the hardened material in a stye, allowing it to drain
  • Draw the pus in an external stye to  come to a head before bursting
  • Unclog the gland, providing a drainage route for the pus and debris, especially in internal styes

The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises using a compress for 10 to 15 minutes, three to four times a day if you have a stye. Using a compress daily can prevent a new or recurring stye, if you’re prone to getting them.

Massaging the stye during or after the warm compress helps break up the material in the stye so it can drain better. Use your clean fingertips, moving in a circular pattern.

There are many eyelid cleansers available, which are designed specifically to help cleanse the eyelids. Gentle shampoo or mild soap on a cotton swab can also be used to remove drainage and crusting.

A small amount of blood may be present in the drainage, which is normal. If there’s a lot of blood, see a doctor right away.

3. Incision and drainage :

If your stye persists even after warm compresses and antibiotics, It is advised that you see a doctor and discuss incision and drainage. This procedure is done in a doctor’s clinic in a sterile environment.

After giving a local numbness injection to your eyelid, the doctor makes a small incision and drains the fluid debris and pus. The material that’s removed is usually looked at under a microscope to verify it’s not a very rare but treatable cancer known as sebaceous carcinoma.

Sometimes a stye doesn’t completely resolve and your body walls it off to contain the inflammation. This can form a painless, rubbery lump on your eyelid, which is termed a chalazion. In most cases, this too shall heal on its own without treatment.

What is the Best Medication for Stye?

Stye treatment is usually either an eye drop or an ointment. The eye drops are applied directly to the eye, and the ointment is applied directly to the affected area. Some of the stye medicine are as follows :

  • Chloramphenicol eye drops and eye ointment (applied directly to the affected area) are used to protect the eye against bacteria
  • TobraDex (tobramycin/dexamethasone) is a combination eye medication that’s used to treat and relieve signs and symptoms 

What are the Stages of a Stye?

Most stye lasts from a few days to two weeks before beginning to heal. Stages of stye eye may be described as:

1. Early Stage

  • In the beginning stage of the eye, patients start to experience discomfort, pain, and general inflammation in the affected area.  During this stage, stye begins as a red, tender bump, and looks like a small pimple in the eyelid. 

2. Middle Stage

  • Stye comes to a head (clear or yellow fluid collects in the stye) in about 3 days.

3. Final Stage

  • Stye breaks open drains and heals in about a week.
Having a recurrent stye, not healing with treatment. Consult one of our doctors now to discuss your condition in detail and how to prevent it.

Are Styes Contagious?

Styes are usually not contagious. Styes develop due to bacteria that are found in the fluid that is trapped in the gland,  hence they do have a chance of spreading. It is better to avoid sharing utensils like face towels, makeup, soaps, etc, and also avoid sharing pillows. 

Always wash hands before and after touching an eye with stye whether it is your own or you are caring for someone. You can continue going to your job and child’s school. 

Relationship of Stye and COVID 

  • Though they may not be directly related, it has been noticed that during the COVID pandemic there was a rise in stye cases. 
  • It is believed that wearing a mask, fogging of glasses due to breath leads upwards, and dry eyes. This puts the patient at risk of developing eye infections during the COVID pandemic.
  • Wearing a mask is essential during a pandemic, antiviral and antibacterial eyelid scrubs, mouthwash, use of a nose clip with mask, frequent washing and changing of masks, and avoiding touching the eyes and face are recommended to avoid stye formation.

How Long Does a Stye Last?

Styes are rarely a serious medical issue, but they can be pretty irritating. How long does stye long depends upon how you treat it:

Without treatment

  • A stye may tend to last for 1–2 weeks until it resolves on its own.

With Treatment

  • The treatment makes it possible to get rid of a stye a few days sooner. This involves applying a warm compress to the stye to help it drain quicker.

How to Prevent Styes?

Some Ways You Can Lower Your Risk of Getting a Stye Include:

  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes
  • Take medications to relieve itchiness from hay fever or allergies
  • Treat blepharitis, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, and meibomian gland dysfunction
  • Keep contacts clean and disinfected
  • Wash your hands before touching contacts
  • Don’t reuse disposable contacts.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water, or use a hand sanitizer that contains alcohol

Some precautions to take while you have a stye include:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid wearing eye makeup
  • Discard all old eye makeup
  • Don’t wear contact lenses

Styes aren’t contagious, but bacteria can be transferred through infected makeup. You should never let anyone else use your makeup, especially mascara and eyeliner.

If your eyes are no better after two days of treatment, Consult one of our doctors online now.

When to See a Doctor?

Styes usually do not require treatment. Occasionally, If you have any of the following, you should consult a doctor:

  • Your stye is persisting longer than a few days 
  • A lot of blood is being drained 
  • It is rapidly growing in size 
  • You experience malaise 
  • You have multiple stye 

Increased swelling or new signs of infection could mean you’re developing a severe infection.


  • If you experience  any blurring of vision or visual difficulties 
  • Periorbital cellulitis:  swelling and redness around your eyes, which could indicate the infection has spread to the skin around your eye 

FAQs About Stye Answered By Your Doctors Online Team

Are styes caused by stress?

Though stye is a bacterial infection of the eyelid, there is evidence suggesting that stress puts the body at risk of developing infections. This is why you can have a stye if your body is under stress. Stress weakens the immune system and increases the chances of infections. 

How long will a stye last?

Stye usually heals on its own. It usually lasts from 7 days to 14 days. Prolong periods if complications occur and may require antibiotics or Incision and Drainage. 

How do you stop a stye overnight?

You can use warm compresses to limit the worsening symptoms of stye. This will help unclog the gland and improve drainage. 

Do tea bags help styes?

Black tea, teabag has both antibacterial properties and tannin in it which helps reduce eye infections. Though there is no scientific proof associated with it. It can also act as a warm compress. 

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