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Styes are common and should clear up on their own within a week or 2. They're rarely a sign of anything serious, but may be painful until they heal.

Check if you have a stye

a stye on the upper eyelid
A stye is a small, painful lump on or inside the eyelid or around the eye.
red and swollen upper eyelid with a stye
The skin may be red, swollen and filled with yellow pus, like a pimple.
a stye on the lower eyelid
Your eye may be red and watery but your vision should not be affected.

A stye usually only affects 1 eye, but it's possible to have more than 1 at a time.

It's probably not a stye if:

  • there's no lump – if your eye or eyelid is swollen, red and watery it's more likely to be conjunctivitis or blepharitis
  • the lump is hard but not very painful – it's more likely to be a chalazion

How to treat a stye

To reduce swelling and help the stye heal:

  1. Soak a clean flannel in warm water.
  2. Hold it against your eye for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Repeat this 3 or 4 times a day.

To relieve the pain, take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to children under 16.

Avoid wearing contact lenses and eye make-up until the stye has burst and healed.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if your stye:

  • is very painful or swollen
  • does not get better within a few weeks
  • affects your vision

Treatment from a GP

If you have a stye, your GP may:

  • burst the stye with a thin, sterilised needle
  • remove the eyelash closest to the stye
  • refer you to an eye specialist in hospital

Stye prevention

You cannot always prevent a stye. Styes are often caused by bacteria infecting an eyelash follicle or eyelid gland.

You're also more likely to get a stye if you have long-term blepharitis.

You can help avoid styes by keeping your eyes clean.

Do not try to burst a stye or remove an eyelash yourself. This can spread the infection.


  • wash your face regularly

  • keep your eyelids and eyelashes clean, especially if you have blepharitis

  • remove eye make-up before bed

  • replace your eye make-up every 6 months


  • do not share towels or flannels with someone who has a stye

  • do not rub your eyes if you have not recently washed your hands

  • do not put contact lenses in before washing your hands

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 25 March 2021
Next review due: 25 March 2024

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.