Styes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Updated on November 1, 2017

What Is a Stye?

A stye, technically a hordeolum, is an infection in the oil or sweat gland in the upper or lower eyelid. Styes are usually caused by Staphylococcus bacterium, and they can spread from person to person through direct contact. Styes tend to occur in "crops," because the bacteria in the pus that forms in the stye spread easily to infect other glands in the eyelids.

Signs and Symptoms

Styes develop in much the same way as a boil. The area at the edge of the eyelid becomes increasingly red, painful, and swollen. The sufferer may feel unwell, hot, feverish, and sweaty. After two to three days, pus forms, and the stye "points" either outwards or sometimes inwards. In other words, a yellow head appears at the edge of the lid near the base of the eyelashes. Styes usually break spontaneously, drain, and heal rapidly. Occasionally, a stye will heal without pointing or draining.

Home Treatment

Sometimes, the simple routine of applying alternate hot and cold packs may be effective in bringing the stye to a head. Place cotton balls or a small folded washcloth that has been soaked in warm water and wrung out lightly on the affected eye. When this cools, follow the same procedure with an icy cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes. Do not press too hard, and repeat several times a day.

Administer aspirin or a paracetamol elixir to relieve pain and decrease fevers. Plenty of oral fluid is also a good idea with any infection, wherever it happens to be in the system. Apply antibiotic eye-drops or ointment (available by prescription) several times a day to prevent the formation of additional styes.

Styes: A Quick Reference Guide

Staphylococcus bacterium
Swelling, pain, and redness of the eyelid
Apply alternate hot and cold packs several times a day
Formation of pus and a "head"
Aspirin and paracetamol help reduce pain
Apply antibiotic eye-drops or ointment to prevent reinfection


Do not confuse styes with cysts or insect bites. Cysts are lumps or swellings that show through the undersurface of the eyelids as pink or pale yellow spots. They usually are not tender. Sometimes, however, they become infected and, like styes, are red, tender, and painful. Unlike styes, cysts persist for some time and do not come to a head. Insect bites itch, are not painful, and do not come to a head. The whites of the eyes do not become red as a result of a stye. One large or several small recurring styes, or a stye that accompanies such symptoms as fever, headache, loss of appetite, or lethargy, should be seen by a doctor. Styes can be contagious, so keep the towels and washcloths separate from those used by other family members.

Medical Treatment

If simple measures such as those described under home treatment fail to bring some relief within 24 hours, it is necessary to see your doctor. He or she may prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, as well as antibiotic eye-drops, or an ointment. It is rarely necessary to open and drain a stye. The doctor may take a culture of the nose and throat secretions to find out where the bacteria originated.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      stye treatment 

      9 years ago

      if you use herbal tea bags this can reduce the swelling, if it doesn't i would consult your doctor asap

    • Sterling Sage profile image

      Sterling Sage 

      10 years ago from California

      thank you for a useful hub. i think i may have one of these!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)