Eyelid problems

Causes of common eyelid problems, such as swollen eyelids, gritty, itchy or flaky eyelids, and droopy eyelids

A stye is a small abscess (painful collection of pus) on the eyelid. It appears as a painful lump on the outside or inside of the eyelid.

It is also known as a hordeolum.

Other symptoms of a stye include:

  • a watery eye
  • a red eye or eyelid

It's not always necessary to see your GP if you develop a stye, although you should have painful external styes checked.

What causes a stye?

A stye is usually caused by an infection with staphylococcus bacteria (staphylococcal infection).

Long-term blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) may also increase the risk.

Styes are fairly common and a person may have one or two styes during their lifetime.

Read more about the causes of a stye

Treating a stye

Most styes get better without treatment within a few days or weeks. External styes may turn into yellow spots and release pus after three or four days. Internal styes are more painful and may last slightly longer.

A warm compress (a cloth warmed with warm water) held against the eye encourages the stye to release pus and heal more quickly.

Further treatment is not usually needed unless you have a very painful stye that is not getting better. In this case your GP may decide to drain it.

You should never attempt to burst a stye yourself.

Read more about treating a stye.

Complications of a stye

Your GP may prescribe antibiotics if you experience complications of a stye, such as:

  • a chalazion (meibomian cyst) – which can develop if a gland in your eyelid is blocked
  • preseptal cellulitis – an infection in tissues around your eye

Page last reviewed: 02/07/2012

Next review due: 02/07/2014


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