Stye

Styes are common and should clear up on their own within a week or two. 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 one eye but it's possible to have more than one 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. Don't give aspirin to children under 16.

Avoid wearing contact lenses and eye make-up until the stye has burst and healed.

Don't try to burst a stye or remove an eyelash yourself. This can spread the infection.

See a GP if your stye:

  • is very painful or swollen
  • doesn't get better within a few weeks
  • affects your vision

Treatment from a GP

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 can't 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

  • 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

  • share towels or flannels with someone who has a stye
  • rub your eyes if you haven't recently washed your hands
  • put contact lenses in before washing your hands

Page last reviewed: 12/01/2018
Next review due: 12/01/2021

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