How to get rid of a stye
What is a stye?
A stye (or a hordeolum) is an infection in the eyelid that causes a tender, red bump near the edge of the eye. The infection is caused by clogged oil glands or bacteria, and they can occur at the base of the eyelash (external stye) or in one of the glands within the eyelid (internal).
You will usually only get a stye on one eye at a time, but they can occur on both eyes, particularly if you don’t treat the first stye you get. Styes are usually a one-off thing, and once you treat a stye, it won’t come back — but sometimes they can reoccur. What you think is a stye might also be a chalazion, which is a healed internal stye that is no longer infectious.
How can you get rid of a stye?
Most red bumps near the edge of the eyelid are harmless and usually heal on their own in a week or two (and many aren’t actually styes at all). Regardless, a stye can be a nuisance. Fortunately, there are several home remedies that may help you get rid of a stye fast — or at least reduce some of the discomfort and swelling that often accompany a stye.
Here are some ways to speed up the healing process:
1. Apply a warm compress
You can speed up the healing of a stye by applying mild heat with a warm compress, such as a tea bag or washcloth, for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a day.
A basic clean washcloth dipped in warm (not hot) water works well as a compress. Wring the cloth so it is not dripping, then place it over your closed eyes.
If you want to try a tea bag, wait until it cools so it is warm, not hot, and keep it on your eyelid for about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a different tea bag for each eye if you have more than one stye.
2. Wash your hands
Wash your hands before and after touching the stye, and don't share your towels or washcloths with others.
3. Clean your eyelids
Another thing to do if you get a stye is clean your eyelids. You can use diluted tear-free baby shampoo on a cotton ball, washcloth or makeup remover pad. Then rinse your eyelids with warm water and gently pat them dry.
You can also use a mild saline solution to clean your eyelids, or a pre-moistened eyelid cleansing pad. You can find these non-prescription items in most drugstores.
4. Wear your glasses (not contact lenses)
Wear glasses rather than contact lenses until the stye heals.
5. Stop wearing eye makeup
It's wise to stop wearing eye makeup when you have a stye because covering it up can delay the healing process. Also, throw away old makeup or applicators that could be contaminated.
6. Massage the area
Gentle massage, with either clean hands or a warm compress, can sometimes help ease the pain of a stye. Massage may also help promote stye drainage. Stick to gentle massage and stop if you experience any pain.
7. See a doctor
If these remedies don’t do the trick, or your stye gets worse, call your eye doctor. You may need prescription antibiotics, or even to have your stye drained surgically.
How do you relieve stye pain?
Painkillers: Over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen may ease pain or discomfort, but they won't do much to make your stye heal faster.
Home Remedies: The best ways to relieve stye pain are treating it with warm compresses or face cloths and getting the stye to heal as quickly as possible.
Never pop a stye
Whatever you do, don't get anxious and try to pop a stye! The warmth from a warm compress will often allow it to open, drain and heal on its own without causing trauma to the eyelid or spreading the infection.
How do you prevent styes?
There are a few things you can do to help prevent styes.
Clean your face and remove your makeup each night.
Wash your eyelids every day with diluted baby shampoo
Use an OTC eyelid wash
Always wash your hands before touching your contacts, and make sure you disinfect and clean your contacts according to the manufacturer’s instructions
Bacteria can grow on makeup, so replace your eye makeup every 2-3 months. Never share makeup with anyone else
Avoid rubbing your eyes if they are itchy and especially if you haven’t just washed your hands
Avoid sharing towels or masks with someone who has a stye
If you wear a mask for work, be sure to change to a fresh mask frequently and take safe mask breaks throughout the day
How long does a stye last?
In most cases, a stye will go away with home treatments within 3 to 5 days. The swelling should start to decrease after 2 to 3 days. If you need to see your doctor or use antibiotics for a more serious stye, it should still be gone within about a week.
If you have styes that keep coming back, you might have problems with blepharitis. Taking steps to quickly treat this eyelid problem also will help prevent any recurrences.
When to see an eye doctor for a stye
You should see your doctor for stye treatment if:
Your stye doesn't get better after a few days
Your stye gets worse
Your actual eye hurts rather than just your eyelid
It’s affecting your vision
Your eyelid swells up or gets very red
If your eye won't open all the way
Your stye is internal and home remedies or OTC solutions aren't helping
If the stye continues to get larger
Your doctor may prescribe or recommend one of the following stye treatments:
Your eye doctor may determine that oral antibiotics are needed to help clear up your stye. If this is the case for you, ask if your doctor also recommends taking probiotics between doses to help reduce possible antibiotic side effects. An antibiotic cream or ointment may also be prescribed.
In some cases, styes may require minor surgery by an ophthalmologist, followed by a prescription stye medicine or antibiotic. If your doctor recommends surgery, it is a fairly simple procedure to open and drain the stye.
More stye articles
Page published in February 2021
Page updated in March 2022
Medically reviewed in April 2021