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What is a Stye?

A stye is an inflamed oil gland on the upper or lower eyelid at the base of the eyelashes, where the lash meets the lid. It appears as a red, swollen bump that looks like a pimple and may be tender to the touch. Styes are caused when staphylococcal bacteria living on the surface of the eyelid becomes trapped, causing an infection that results in a bump on the eyelid, soreness and redness of the area.

Although styes are caused by bacteria, they can be triggered by poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, bad hygiene, lack of water or rubbing of the eyes. They are one of several conditions that fall under the medical name blepharitis, a common condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids.

Styes that don’t improve over time may develop scar tissue around the inflamed gland, leaving a bump called a chalazion. A chalazion is usually a firm, painless lump that becomes infected will be painful and red.

How are Styes Diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose a stye by looking at it.

How are Styes Treated?

Most styes heal within a week on their own or with treatment. To treat a stye at home, apply a warm, wet cloth to the area for 10 minutes four times a day. Do not squeeze a stye; let it drain or subside on its own. Do not use contact lenses or wear eye makeup until the area has healed.

See a doctor if:

  • You have problems with your vision
  • The stye worsens or doesn't improve within a week of self-care
  • The bump becomes very large or painful
  • You have crusting or scaling of the eyelids
  • You are very sensitive to light
  • The stye bleeds

If the stye is infected, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream or open the stye to drain it. As a last resort, ophthalmologists surgically remove styes that do not respond to treatment. With adequate treatment, styes tend to heal quickly and without complications.

Learn More

For additional information on styes, visit the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus page

Contact Us

The Robert Cizik Eye Clinic
Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza
6400 Fannin Street, 18th Floor
Houston, TX 77030

Phone: (713) 559-5200
Office Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
A physician is on call 24/7.

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This information, although based on a thorough knowledge and careful review of current medical literature, is the opinion of doctors at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and is presented to inform you about ophthalmic conditions. It is not meant to contradict any information you may receive from your personal physician and should not be used to make decisions about treatment. If you have any questions about the information above or your child's care, please contact our doctors.