Treating a stye 

Styes often get better without any treatment, particularly after they burst and release pus.

Don't try to burst the stye yourself. Most styes get better and disappear within one to three weeks.

In the meantime, trying the treatments described below should help ease your symptoms.

Warm compress

You can use a warm compress to treat your stye. A warm compress is a cloth or flannel warmed with hot water. Be careful not to use water that's too hot, particularly on children.

You should:

  • hold the warm compress over the affected eye for five to 10 minutes
  • repeat this three or four times a day until the stye either clears up or releases some pus

The warmth of the compress will encourage the stye to release any pus, which will drain away. After this, your symptoms should improve quickly.

You should also keep the area around your eye clean and free from crusting.


If your stye is very painful, painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may help ease the pain. They're available over the counter from pharmacies.

You should always read the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the medication is suitable for you and that you take the correct dose.

Don't give aspirin to children under 16 years of age.

When to visit your GP

See your GP if you have an external stye (on the outside of your eyelid) that's very painful. Your GP may:

  • remove the eyelash closest to the stye if the stye is caused by an infected eyelash follicle (a small hole in your skin that an individual eyelash grows out of)
  • use a very thin, clean needle to make an incision (cut) into the stye and drain away the pus

Don't try to remove the eyelash or burst the stye yourself.


Your GP may refer you to an ophthalmologist (a specialist in diagnosing and treating eye conditions) if:

  • your stye doesn't improve after using the above treatments
  • you have an internal stye (on the inside of your eyelid) that's particularly large or painful

The ophthalmologist may make an incision into the stye and drain out any pus. 

Other eye conditions

If you have another eye condition that's making your stye worse, your GP may prescribe separate medication for this or recommend a different course of treatment.

For example, if you have:

  • conjunctivitis, your GP may prescribe antibiotics (medication to treat bacterial infections)
  • blepharitis, your GP may recommend eye hygiene measures, such as using a cotton bud to clean the rim of your eyelids


Antibiotics aren't recommended for treating styes because there's little evidence they're effective, and styes usually get better on their own.

However, antibiotics may be used to treat complications of styes, such as chalazions (meibomian cysts).

Page last reviewed: 09/07/2014

Next review due: 09/07/2016