Styes are usually not contagious.
Styes are red bumps (hordeolum) found near the edge of the eyelid. They often look like pimples and can be unsightly, painful, and annoying. They may develop due to oil gland blockages, stress, hormonal changes, and other causes.
Good hygiene is the best prevention method against styes. They will normally go away on their own, but you can alleviate discomfort with warm compresses and some other home remedies.
Common Causes of Styes
Eye styes are most often caused by blockages that occur on one of the eye’s oil glands. This blockage causes bacteria to build up inside the gland. This is part of the reason why styes have the same appearance as many common types of acne pimples.
You can also get multiple styes at the same time, which can be a painful condition.
Styes can also be caused by wearing makeup that blocks the oil glands. Styes are sometimes triggered by stress or hormonal changes. Individuals who have skin conditions like rosacea tend to get styes more often than people who don’t have these sorts of skin issues.
An eye stye will most typically develop fully over the course of a few days. It will often begin as discomfort or irritation in the area in question, most often located at the edge of the eyelid.
After the initial pain and irritation, a small bump will usually appear. The bump itself can end up becoming quite painful and may be pimple-like in appearance.
The sensation of having an eye stye almost feels like there is something in the eye. The stye itself can often end up causing swelling around the area.
Most often, styes will go away on their own after a few days.
Generally, eye styes will not result in vision issues. If your vision is compromised due to an eye stye, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.
The most common symptoms associated with eye styes include the following:
- Redness near or around the eye
- Pain or discomfort
- Eye tenderness
- Drooping eyelid or a lazy eye
- Discharge coming from the eye
- Itching or burning sensation
Can Styes in the Eye Spread?
While there are many widespread myths about the issue, eye styes are not usually contagious. It is very rare for styes to spread from person to person.
An eye stye can potentially spread to other areas of the eye, which can result in cellulitis. This situation requires immediate medical care.
How Long Do Styes Last?
Minor eye styes generally do not require medical treatment and will go away on their own within a few days. More sizable styes generally subside and go away in around one to two weeks.
If you don’t pursue medical treatment, an eye stye should be gone within one to two weeks. In some cases, doctors may prescribe antibiotic creams or ointments to treat the stye. This will generally speed the healing process.
What Are the Best Ways to Prevent Styes?
The best way to prevent styes is with good hygiene. Washing your hands frequently and consistently will help to reduce your chances of getting an eye stye. Avoid rubbing your eyes as much as possible.
Cleaning your upper and lower eyelids will also reduce the likelihood of developing eye styes. Make sure to clean your face thoroughly every night, especially if you wear makeup.
You can add this step as part of your daily skincare routine. Dip a cotton swab in a mild soap (or even baby shampoo) and mix it with warm water. Gently cleanse the eyes using this solution.
There are also over-the-counter eyelid cleansers available. Also called lid scrubs, these eyelid cleaners might work well for people with oily eyelids as well as those who need blepharitis maintenance.
Treatment Options for Styes
The best treatment for an eye stye is to leave it alone. If you attempt to pop or squeeze it, you can delay the healing process and seriously harm your skin or eye. This can lead to scarring and even vision damage.
To feel better faster and reduce pain and swelling, use warm compresses on the area. Be careful that the compress is not too hot, as this can burn this sensitive area. Apply the compress to the area for about 10 minutes multiple times per day.
You can also gently massage the area, particularly after applying the warm compress. This may help to dislodge clogged glands, softening the area to encourage drainage.
If the stye does not improve within a few days, see your doctor. They may prescribe antibiotic ointment or eye drops to reduce pain and quicken your recovery.
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Ocular Rosacea Is Common and Multisymptomatic. (June 2022). Dermatology Advisor.
Blepharitis. (January 2023). StatPearls.
Are Styes Contagious? And what Can I Do About Them? – Video Answer. (May 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Stye. (August 2022). StatPearls.
What Is the Best Treatment for a Hordeolum (Stye)? (January 2020). Evidence-Based Practice.
Eyelid Inflammation: Approach to Hordeolum, Chalazion, and Pyogenic Granuloma. (May 2017). Consultant360.
Last Updated May 24, 2023
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