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Stye

Styes are common and should clear up on their own within 1 or 2 weeks. They're rarely a sign of anything serious, but may be painful until they heal.

Check if you have a stye

The stye is a round, slightly red lump on the upper lid by the eyelashes. The rest of the eye looks normal.
A stye is a small, painful lump on or inside the eyelid or around the eye.
The stye is a yellow lump on the upper lid by the eyelashes. The upper eyelid is very swollen and red.
The skin around the stye may be swollen and red and the stye may be filled with yellow pus. The redness may be harder to see on brown and black skin.
Stye on lower eyelid. It is a round, red lump by the lower eyelashes. The rest of the eye looks normal.
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 you can treat a stye yourself

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.

Do not burst a stye

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

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
Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

Treatment from a GP

If you have a stye, the 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 or rosacea.

You can help avoid styes by keeping your eyes clean.

Do

  • wash your face and remove eye make-up before bed

  • replace your eye make-up every 6 months

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

Don’t

  • 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

Page last reviewed: 26 February 2021
Next review due: 26 February 2024