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Stye treatment: Get rid of a stye fast

Boy with a stye in his eye

Although most tender, red bumps near the edge of the eyelid are harmless and usually heal on their own in a week or two, a stye can be a nuisance you just can’t wait to get rid of.

Fortunately, we have a few 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.

Stye treatment in two easy steps

Step 1: Keep your eyelids clean

  • Clean your eyelids. The first thing you should do if you develop 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.

  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands before and after touching the stye, and don’t share your towels or washcloths with others.

  • Use a cleansing pad. Pre-moistened eyelid cleansing pads are another option. You can find these non-prescription items in most drugstores.

  • Pause your makeup use. It’s wise to stop wearing eye makeup temporarily when you have it, because covering up can delay the healing process. Also, discard old makeup or applicators that could be contaminated.

  • Wear your glasses, not contacts, for a bit. And if you need vision correction, wear glasses rather than contact lenses until the stye heals.

Step 2: Apply warm, moist compresses

  • Apply warm compresses. You can speed the healing of a stye by applying warm compresses for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a day.

  • Try a teabag or washcloth. Some people use teabags for this purpose, but a basic clean washcloth dipped in warm (not hot) water will do the trick and is easy to prepare. Wring the cloth so it’s not dripping, then place it over your closed eyes.

  • Don’t pop it. The goal of this therapy is to bring the stye to a head, as you would do with a pimple. But whatever you do, don’t get anxious and try to pop the stye! The warmth from the compress often will allow it to open, drain and heal on its own without causing trauma to the eyelid or possibly spreading an infection by squeezing it.

How to ease the discomfort of a stye

  • Painkillers: Over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen probably won't do much to speed healing, but these medications may ease discomfort if it is particularly bothersome.

  • Eye surgery: Your eye doctor may address pain associated with these red bumps on your eyelid by removing the stye. Sometimes, your eye doctor may choose to surgically open a large stye to relieve discomfort and prevent a serious infection.

How to prevent future styes

Proper eyelid hygiene can significantly reduce the risk of styes. Clean your eyelids thoroughly before bedtime, especially if you wear eye makeup.

Also, if you sometimes have problems with blepharitis, taking steps to quickly treat this eyelid problem also will help prevent any recurrences.

When to see an eye doctor

Although these tips will help most red bumps on eyelids clear up fairly quickly, don’t hesitate to contact your eye doctor for additional advice. Your doctor might prescribe an ointment or other stye treatment to help the condition resolve more quickly.

If your stye worsens, affects your vision or doesn’t go away within a week or so, contact your eye doctor for an in-office evaluation and treatment. In some cases, these stubborn red bumps may require surgical treatment by your ophthalmologist, followed by application of a prescription medicine.

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Amy Hellem

Amy Hellem is a writer, editor and researcher who specializes in eye care and other medical fields.

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