What is this small unpleasant bump that has taken up residence on your eyelid? It could be a stye.
What is a stye?
A stye takes the form of a small reddish bump that most often appears on the upper or lower eyelid. To some extent, it looks like an acne pimple or a boil, but it is located on the eye. Usually more unattractive than it is problematic, it can sometimes cause discomfort or pain.
It usually develops following an infection of the sebaceous gland, located on the edge of the eyelid. It is a harmless and temporary infection for which the duration generally varies between a few days to about a week.
In addition to discomfort and pain, a stye can cause the following symptoms:
- swelling of the eyelid
- sensitivity to light
- feeling of grittiness in the eye
People sometimes confuse a stye with another eye problem called “chalazion”. Although the two look alike, the chalazion lasts longer and does not cause pain.
How should a stye be treated?
You can follow the instructions below to speed up the healing process of the stye.
- Apply a warm compress on the affected eye. Take a clean cloth or a sterile gauze and wet it with hot water (ideally, that has boiled). Wait until the temperature is lukewarm (tolerable to the touch) before applying it. When the compress cools, wet it again and reapply it. Follow this procedure for 5 to 15 minutes, three to four times a day. Keep your eye closed while the compress is in place.
- Don’t touch the stye unnecessarily. Avoid scratching or trying to pierce it, which is completely futile and is likely to make things worse.
- Avoid wearing contact lenses or make-up until the stye has disappeared.
There are topical antibiotics available without a prescription at the pharmacy that come in eye drop form, intended to treat conjunctivitis. They are generally not very useful to treat styes.
When should I seek medical advice?
Most of the time, styes are not serious and are without consequence. However, they sometimes become worse or complicated.
If you have applied compresses in the first 48 hours and the situation has not improved or has worsened, you should see a doctor or a vision specialist, such as an optometrist.
You should also seek medical advice if:
- the stye continues to grow bigger
- your eyelid is very swollen and red
- you have other eye symptoms, including redness elsewhere than on the eyelid
- redness and swelling spread to the cheek and other parts of the face
- you have secretions, especially if they are coloured
- the skin around the eye is peeling
- you experience bleeding
- your vision is altered
- you have a fever
The healthcare professional that you consult may decide to prescribe an eye treatment to treat the stye if it persists or if it leads to complications. For instance, it could consist of an antibiotic or an anti-inflammatory drug in an eye drop format to be applied to the eye or the eyelid. Your pharmacist can advise you on how to use the medication, the possible side effects, the precautions to be taken, and how it should be stored.
In some rare cases, the stye may have to be drained. This procedure must be done by a doctor.
How can a stye be avoided?
- Always wash your hands before touching your eyes.
- Also wash them well before putting in your contact lenses.
- Follow your eye specialist’s instructions on eye care and on how to manipulate your contact lenses.
- Always adequately remove your make-up before going to bed.
- Do not share your eye make-up with others and do not use other people’s make-up.
- Do not use eye medication or lubricating eye drops beyond the expiry date. These preventive measures do not guarantee that you will never have a stye, but they lower the risk of having one.
These preventive measures do not guarantee that you will never have a stye, but they lower the risk of having one.
In conclusion, most of the time, styes are minor and temporary ailments that can be treated at home. If you think it might be something other than a stye, it is preferable to consult a healthcare professional. When it comes to eye health, there’s nothing better than the perspective of a seasoned professional.