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How to Get Rid of a Stye

Woman with stye in her eye

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. Stye 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 do you get rid of a stye? (Stye treatments)

Although most red bumps near the edge of the eyelid are harmless, and often not styes at all, they usually heal on their own in a week or two, but a stye can be a nuisance. 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.

1.  Clean your eyelids

The first thing you should 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.

2. Wash your hands

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

3. Use an eyelid cleansing pad

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

4. 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. 

5. Wear your glasses (not contact lenses)

Wear glasses rather than contact lenses until the stye heals.

6.  Apply warm compresses 

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

7. Try a teabag or warm washcloth 

Some people use teabags to treat styes, but a basic clean washcloth dipped in warm (not hot) water will do the trick. Wring the cloth so it is not dripping, then place it over your closed eyes. If you want to try a teabag 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.

8. Don't pop a stye 

The goal of popping a stye is to try to drain the stye quickly as you would do like popping a pimple. But whatever you do, don't get anxious and try to pop the stye! The warmth from a warm compress often will allow it to open, drain and heal on its own without causing trauma to the eyelid or possibly spreading the infection by squeezing it.

9. Use antibiotic creams 

While you can use over the counter antibiotic creams to help heal a stye, make sure you use creams specifically made to be used in the eye and avoid topical steroids. Also, antibiotic eye drops are not known to do much to help get rid of styes. If a stye is bad enough to require antibiotics, you are probably best off seeing your doctor. 

10. Massage 

Gentle massage, with either clean hands, or the warm compress / warm washcloth you are using can sometimes help ease the pain of a stye. Massage may also help promote the stye draining. Stick to gentle massage and stop if you are experiencing any pain. 

How do you relieve stye pain?

  • Painkillers: Over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen may ease pain or discomfort but they probably won't do much to make your stye heal faster. 

  • Home Remedies: The best way to relieve stye pain are treating it with warm compresses or face cloths and getting the stye to heal as quickly as possible.

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.

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 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.

  • Is internal and home remedies or OTC solutions aren't helping.

  • If the stye continues to get larger.

Stye surgery 

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. 

Eyelid bump. MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine. February 2021.

What are chalazia and styes? American Academy of Ophthalmology. November 2020.

Ophthalmology, 4th Edition. Elsevier. 2013.

Is it OK to pop a stye? American Academy of Ophthalmology. March 2014.

Sty. Mayo Clinic. July 2020.

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