The stye

Among the most common ophthalmological disorders is hordeolum. This is popularly known as an “stye” and is an infection of the eyelids.

What is the stye and how many types can it be?

Styes are a disorder of the sebaceous glands in the thickness of the eyelids. Staphylococcal infection can lead to a stye on the upper or lower eyelid. The disease is manifested by a swelling, which may be painful constantly, spontaneously or only on palpation. The eye stye may spread.

There are two types of stye:

  1. External stye – This is the most common and is a disorder of the eyelash follicle. It is visible on the outside of the upper or lower eyelid and, if it extends, it does so to the outside of the eye.
  2. Internal stye – Occurs on the inner eyelid as a result of an infection in the sebaceous glands. It is usually more painful than the external one, and if it spreads, it spreads to the inside of the eye.

What causes the stye?

There are several causes of eye styes. The most common is poor eye hygiene, but there may be other factors as well.

  • You have an imbalance in your diet; nutrient and vitamin deficiency
  • You don’t get enough rest;
  • You go to pools that are not properly sanitized;
  • You share your towels;
  • You use contact lenses without washing your hands first and/or do not disinfect them properly;
  • You rub your eyes frequently;
  • You are using cosmetics that have expired;
  • You use cosmetics borrowed from other people;
  • You don’t remove your make-up at the end of the day;
  • You suffer from other disorders (blepharitis, rosacea, diabetes), you have dandruff or high cholesterol.

How does stye manifest in children and adults?

Although it can occur at any age, styes are more common in children. That’s because the little ones tend to put their hand to their eyes without considering whether they are clean or not.

In both adults and children, eyelid hordeolum is manifested by eyelid swelling. It can spread to affect the preauricular lymph nodes in front of the ear and the submaxillary lymph nodes.

As a rule, the stye lasts about a week and the disease progresses in this way:

  1.  You have a burning sensation and feel pressure and itching on the affected eyelid. You may also tear up at first.
  2. Later, the infection becomes visible as a yellowish-red spot on the lash line.
  3. It then swells into a blister that fills with a yellowish-white liquid (pus).
  4. It drains spontaneously (breaks up on its own) about 2-3 days after the onset of infection, or surgically. *Note: It’s essential not to force drainage by pressure as this can cause a bleeding ulceration.
  5. The recovery period follows.

What are the symptoms of stye?

The first thing you notice with an eye stye is a painful lump on your eyelids, usually in the morning when you wake up. Other signs would be if:

  • Your eyes tear up;
  • Your eyelids are turning red;
  • Blurred vision;
  • The edges of your eyelids stick together and it is difficult to blink;
  • You feel like there’s a foreign object in your eye
  • You are sensitive to light;
  • You experience itching and a burning sensation;
  • The skin gets a droopy appearance.

How is stye treated?

As a rule, the stye heals itself. However, there are also cases when the infection requires local or general treatment. It’s essential to see a specialist if you notice inflammation and redness spreading to the entire eyelid or other areas of the face.

Stye: herbal treatment

For the mild form of the disease, symptoms can be relieved at home by applying warm compresses for 5-10 minutes. The affected eyelid is then gently massaged. The procedure can be repeated 2-3 times a day. The compresses are designed to speed up the collection of fluid inside the pustule, and its spontaneous drainage.

Stye: Medication

Your ophthalmologist may prescribe oral antibiotics, pain relievers, antibiotic drops or ointments to treat the hordeolum.

Stye: Surgical treatment

If the medication is not successful, surgery is performed. A local anesthetic is given and an electrocautery is used to make an incision and drain the pustule. If the stye is recurrent, a staphylococcal vaccine is recommended.


If you are experiencing a stye,

  • try not to touch the infected area;
  • don’t put pressure on the edema, trying to force out pus.

For the duration of treatment, it is not recommended:

  • wearing contact lenses;
  • applying cosmetics and make-up.

How long does the hordeolum last?

About a week. If the stye lasts longer than that or affects your eyesight, you should contact a specialist.

How can you prevent eye styes?

In the section where we talked about the causes of styes, we emphasized the importance of eye hygiene. In order to prevent the occurrence of styes, it is essential to:

  • Have proper hand and facial hygiene;
  • Avoid dusty areas;
  • Don’t use expired cosmetics;
  • You take your makeup off before bed;
  • You wear polarized sunglasses;
  • Properly disinfect contact lenses, if you are wearing;
  • Treat blepharitis if you suffer from this disorder.

Is eye stye contagious?

Eye styes can be transmitted. If you live with someone who has a stye, or if you experience it yourself, it is recommended to use individual towels to prevent residual bacteria from being transmitted. It is also not recommended to use makeup borrowed from other people.

What's the difference between chalazion and stye?

Stye can be mistaken for another eye disorder – the chalazion. The main differences are that styes are caused by a bacterial infection and are painful, whereas chalazion is a chronic, painless inflammation. In order to determine the exact type of disorder you have and to receive appropriate treatment, an ophthalmological examination at a specialist clinic is recommended.

If you notice an ophthalmological problem in yourself or your loved ones, the first step is a specialist examination. Dr. Holhoș clinics are present in Alba-Iulia, Cluj-Napoca, Mediaș, Sibiu and Turda, and you can make an appointment online for investigations and an informed diagnosis. Our specialists’ training and state-of-the-art equipment guarantee appropriate treatments and rapid recovery.

Text medically reviewed by Dr. Teodor Holhoș, Ophthalmic Surgeon
Written by Dr. Holhos Team

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