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

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

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