A stye is small swelling of an oil secreting gland near the edge of the lower or upper eyelid. The blocked gland is often caused by a common bacteria that is found on our skin (Staphyloccocus).
Styes are most commonly acquired by rubbing the eye with a hand contaminated with bacteria.
The stye may or may not have a small yellow head (like a pimple) and the eyelid will be red and tender to touch.
Vision is not usually affected by a stye.
Applying hot compresses to the affected area for 10 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day will help reduce the inflamation and speed recovery.
Never pop a stye, allow it to rupture on its own. Avoid sharing towels and washcloths as the stye may be contagious.
Styes often heal in 5-7 days with hot compresses but occasionally antibiotic eye drops may be necessary.
Often mistaken as a stye, a chalazion is an enlarged, blocked oil gland in the eyelid that develops farther from the eyelid edge than styes. A chalazion can mimic a stye for the first few days but then it turns into a painless, hard round bump.
If the initial infection is treated with oral antibiotics sometimes the chalazion can be eliminated. If untreated, the bump may linger for months and if persistent may need to be surgically removed by an ophthalmologist.