Though they can be unsightly and uncomfortable, styes typically are not cause for concern.
In fact, most styes go away on their own or with the help of some basic home remedies.
However, in some cases, it’s necessary to take antibiotics for a stye.
In this article, we’ll explore what a stye is, antibiotics and treatments for styes, how to prevent a stye, and when to see a doctor about a bump on your eyelid.
What Is a Stye?
A stye (or hordeolum) is a painful bump caused by a bacterial infection that develops on the eyelash line of the eyelid.
It may appear on the upper or lower eyelid or underneath the eyelid.
A stye can be as tiny as a pimple or as large as the size of a pea.
It can also lead to swelling of the entire eyelid and make the eye appear red, inflamed, and irritated.
Common stye symptoms include:
- A bump on the eyelid
- Eyelid pain and swelling
- Eye irritation and redness
- Crusty eyelids
- A constant feeling of having something in the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Watery eyes
Although styes themselves are not contagious, you should avoid sharing face towels or cosmetics with others to avoid spreading the bacteria that caused the stye.
As the name suggests, internal styes (also called internal hordeolums) occur on the inside of the eyelid.
Most happen when oil-producing glands that line the eyelid become infected.
Internal styes are less common than external ones.
External styes (or external hordeolums) occur along the lining of the eyelid.
Most are infections of the eyelash follicles.
Will a Stye Go Away on Its Own?
Styes are rarely serious and typically resolve on their own within 1-2 weeks.
In some cases, however, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotic to help clear the infection faster or prevent further infection.
Antibiotics for a Stye
Most styes don’t require antibiotics.
But in the case of recurring infections or a stye that won’t go away, a topical antibiotic cream or ointment may be necessary.
Erythromycin is the most commonly prescribed topical antibiotic for styes.
If the bacterial infection spreads to other parts of the eye or is persistent even after using the antibiotic cream, a doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics.
Common ones prescribed for styes include:
Even if a stye goes away, be sure to complete the full course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from coming back.
Common side effects of stye medication
Side effects of stye medication are usually mild.
Topical antibiotics may cause burning or irritation where applied.
Oral antibiotics may cause nausea, constipation, diarrhea, or decreased appetite.
However, if you experience rashes, trouble breathing, swelling in the throat or face, or any other abnormal symptoms or abrupt changes, contact your healthcare provider immediately and seek emergency medical care, because those are signs that you may be having an allergic reaction.
Other Remedies for a Stye
Home remedies may help ease the discomfort of a stye and even help the stye go away.
The following treatments often help.
Use a warm compress
Warm compresses may help ease pain and encourage the stye to drain.
Before using, make sure the eye is clean and free of any makeup.
Soak a clean washcloth in warm water and wring it out.
Use this to apply gentle pressure to the stye. Do not rub or scrub.
Repeat throughout the day as needed for relief.
Use a warm tea bag
Similar to a warm compress, a warm tea bag may help reduce swelling and irritation around a stye.
Black, white, or green tea may be the best types of teas for this use.
Steam a tea bag and let it cool until warm, then apply it to the affected eye.
To avoid contamination, do not reuse the same tea bag.
Frequently clean the area
Leaving makeup on for extended periods of time or not washing your face before bed may increase the risk of styes.
In order to avoid this, clean your eyes daily with a gentle eye wash or cleanser. (Sometimes doctors recommend baby shampoo.)
Before washing your eyes, wash your hands.
Also, avoid touching your eyes and face more than is necessary.
If you have a stye, it’s best to avoid makeup, especially mascara and eye liner.
If you must wear it, use clean makeup brushes to apply products that are not outdated or contaminated.
Do not share cosmetic products with anyone, and do not share or reuse face towels or washcloths.
Take out contact lenses
Contact lenses may increase eye irritation if you have a stye, so avoid wearing them if possible.
If you must wear them, ensure that they are properly cleaned, and keep them on for as short a period of time as possible.
Always clean your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes and putting in or removing contact lenses.
Try over-the-counter medications
If a stye is causing pain, over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may provide some relief.
While you can also find OTC eye drops that help to relieve itching or dry eyes, these will not cure or treat styes.
Lightly massage the area
If your eye is crusty or dry, gently massaging the area may help alleviate some discomfort.
Wash your hands thoroughly.
Place a warm washcloth over the affected area and use gentle circular motions.
Do not rub or scrub the area, and never try to pop or break a stye.
Having a stye once can increase your risk of developing one again in the future.
Still, some basic habits may help reduce the risk of future styes:
- Always remove makeup properly and cleanse your eyes, especially before sleep.
- Never share makeup and replace cosmetics every 2-3 months to prevent bacterial contamination.
- Thoroughly clean your hands before touching your eyes or inserting contact lenses.
- Do not share face towels, washcloths, or other hygiene products.
When to See a Doctor
If you notice a bump on your eyelid or have any symptoms associated with a stye, contact your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Some other eye conditions have some similar symptoms and require different treatments.
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