22 October 2019
What is a stye?
A stye is a relatively common eye infection and is usually harmless. Styes are caused by a build-up of the Staphylococcus bacteria which can be found in your nose. It is often transferred when you touch the inside of your nose and then your eyes, causing a stye to develop. Styes are also contagious and so can be spread by touching the stye itself and then not washing your hands before touching other objects.
When the bacteria builds up inside the affected eyelash follicle or gland, it causes it to become inflamed and collect pus. The infection can occur at the base of an eyelash and be visible externally (which is more common), or occur deeper inside the gland, causing an internal bump. If you can see the lump, it will probably look a bit like a boil or a zit with a red or pink colour, often filled with pus. If the stye is internal, however, you might suffer from swelling on the eyelid and some redness, without seeing a pimple-like lump.
How do I know if it’s a stye?
There can sometimes be a bit of confusion when it comes to knowing whether a lump on your eyelid is a stye or not. If the lump is painful, chances are it’s a stye. If it doesn’t hurt when pressed, it could be a chalazion, a small cyst which develops as a result of a blocked oil gland – but shares stye characteristics for the first few days. Chalazia also tend to occur further away from the edge of the eyelid. Styes will always have a lump; if you’re experiencing redness or discomfort without finding a lump in or around your eyelid, you could well be suffering from conjunctivitis or blepharitis instead.
Further symptoms of styes include:
- A hard, painful lump
- Redness and swelling of the eyelid
- Itching, burning and foreign body sensation
- Mucus discharge and crusting around the eyes
- Tearing and blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
- Drooping of the eyelid
Styes tend to reduce in size and disappear after around a week, and will usually go away on their own. If your symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, however, it might be worth getting your eye checked to ensure that it heals properly. Styes also usually only affect one eye but it is possible to have more than one stye in an eye at a time.
What increases my risk of developing a stye?
There are a number of factors which increase your likelihood of developing a stye. They usually pertain to your hygiene habits and lifestyle choices, as well as diet and age. Typically, children and teenagers are more likely to suffer with styes as their oil glands can become blocked more frequently. Children are also generally in closer contact with other children each day, encouraging the spread of styes through Staphylococcus bacteria.
Makeup hygiene has a lot to do with the spread of styes too. Using products after their expiry dates puts you at risk due to the build-up of bacteria. It’s actually recommended that you don’t use mascara for longer than three months due to the risk it poses to your eye health. This comes hand in hand with another stye risk factor: not removing your eye makeup at night. Allowing the makeup to stay in and around your eyes for an extended period – as well as sometimes becoming trapped under the eyelid – provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Styes often develop as a result of infected eyelash follicles, and with mascara clinging to your lashes overnight, the risk of infection is even higher.
Contact lens hygiene also plays a part in the development of styes. If contact lenses aren’t properly disinfected before they are put into your eye, they could carry Staphylococcus bacteria, triggering a stye. Similarly, if you don’t wash your hands thoroughly before putting contacts in, it could cause the same problem. Poor nutrition and a lack of sleep can also make you more susceptible to developing styes, lowering your eye’s natural defences against bacteria.
Treatment and prevention
We’ve talked a lot about how to identify a stye and risk factors for developing them, but what are the actual dangers of them? If left untreated, a stye can sometimes progress into a chalazion, a hard lump requiring surgical removal. Styes can also affect eyelash growth and cause eyelid deformation, or occur as a result of blepharitis. This is a condition where the eyelids become inflamed, red and sore, requiring treatment as severe cases can interfere with your vision. Likewise, particularly sore styes can also affect your vision, highlighting even further the need for treatment.
Most styes can be managed at home with a warm compress held against the affected eye. This can help to draw the pus out, speeding up the healing process, while also helping with the pain and swelling. You should do this up to four times a day for between 5-10 minutes for the best results. As tempting as it might be to squeeze the stye to get the pus out, this is something you really shouldn’t do at home. You might cause more damage than good and put yourself at risk of more infections through the open wound. The stye should rupture on its own within a week and, when it does, your symptoms should disappear quite quickly.
Treatment at Optimax
For more serious cases, we have treatment options available at Optimax. We offer eyelid surgery to remove persistent lumps which interfere with your vision. We also offer blepharitis treatment to eliminate crusting and swelling on the eyelids, a condition which, in itself, is often a risk factor for styes.
If you feel that these treatments would benefit you, please get in touch and we can discuss the most suitable options for you. Give us a call on 0800 093 1110 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.