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 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:
- Soak a clean flannel in warm water.
- Hold it against your eye for 5 to 10 minutes.
- 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
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