A painful, pus-filled swelling at the root of an eyelash due to a bacterial infection

  • More common in children but can occur at any age
  • Wearing contact lenses and using eye make-up may be risk factors
  • Gender and genetics are not significant factors

An infection at the root of an eyelash may result in the formation of a pus-filled swelling called a stye. Most styes are caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium found on the skin of many healthy people. Adults are less likely than children to develop styes, but, if you use eye make-up or wear contact lenses, you may be at increased risk.

A stye begins as a red lump on the edge of the eyelid. Over about the next day, the eyelid becomes swollen and tender, and a yellow spot may form at the centre of the swelling.

What is the treatment?

Styes usually rupture, drain, and heal in a few days without treatment. You may be able to speed the process by placing a clean, warm, damp cloth on the stye for about 20 minutes four times a day. To avoid infecting other people or reinfecting yourself, always wash your hands after touching the infected eyelid and avoid sharing or reusing personal items such as towels or facecloths.

If a stye does not heal in a few days or if the swelling becomes worse, see your doctor. He or she may prescribe a topical antibiotic, which should be put directly on the stye and the skin surrounding it (see Drugs acting on the eye). However, if the stye persists, you may also need to take an oral antibiotic. The stye should clear up within 2–3 days of taking the antibiotic. Styes are unlikely to cause long-term damage, but they tend to recur in some people who are prone to them.

Stye on the upper eyelid

The swelling and redness of this eyelid are due to a stye, caused by a pus-producing infection at the root of an eyelash.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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