Styes–how we get them and how to get rid of them

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Do you have something that looks like a pimple on the outside or inside your eyelid? Is it terribly uncomfortable and unsightly? That would be a stye. Also known as an“external or internal hordeolum,” a stye is an infection caused by the staphylococcus (or “staph”) bacterium. While not serious, they can still be thoroughly unpleasant. Read on to learn where styes come from, how to prevent them, and how to get rid of one once it’s there:

How we get them

Styes are most commonly caused by the blocking of an oil gland at the base of the eye lash. The first signs are pain, redness, and tenderness. Sometimes, the entire eyelid swells as well. They can be triggered by poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, lack of hygiene, and rubbing the eyes. The bacterium is found in the nose and is transferred easily when you rub your nose then your eye. Styes are contagious, so it’s possible to get one by sharing pillowcases, bedsheets, washcloths, or cosmetics with an infected person.

How to get rid of them

While it may be tempting, never “pop” a stye. This can spread the bacteria to other parts of the eyelid and just make the situation worse. A combination of patience and the occasional application of a warm compress is usually the best approach. It will rupture on its own when it is ready. If the stye does not improve or gets worse after two weeks, you should call a doctor. Medical professionals will sometimes prescribe an antibiotic or lance a particularly irritating stye. If the stye causes problems with your vision, becomes very painful, bleeds or is located on the inside of the eyelid, call a doctor immediately.

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While they may look and feel terrible, styes typically do not cause vision problems and will go away on their own within a few days to a couple weeks. Just remember to keep the area clean, don’t puncture it, and apply warm compresses. It’s not a good idea to wear contact lenses if you have a stye as it may increase the discomfort and if the stye bursts, can get bacteria trapped under your lens. If you’re insecure about it’s appearance, don’t be tempted to apply makeup to a stye. Instead, a good pair of dark sunglasses will do the trick.

Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please see your eye care practitioner.