How To Treat a Stye and Stop One From Ever Happening

Popping a stye is not the answer

It’s easy to freak out when you look in the mirror and notice a stye. Not only can these pimple-like bumps near the eye make a person feel self-conscious, but they can be uncomfortable or even painful. If you have fallen victim to one of these annoying little bumps, you may be wondering how long a stye lasts and how you should treat it.

Spoiler alert: Don’t pop it! While it may be tempting to squeeze your stye, this would end up doing more harm than good. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at how long a person must live with these stinging bumps, and whether there are any ways to help speed up the healing process.

What Causes a Stye?

A stye is typically a red, swollen, often painful bump that appears near the root of the eyelash or close to the edge of the eyelid, explained Samuel Pierce, O.D., president of the American Optometric Association (AOA). They're often caused by bacterial infections of the eyelid gland, Dr. Pierce said.

Dr. Pierce warned that there are other ways to develop styes, such as:

  • Touching your eyes with unwashed hands
  • Using expired cosmetics
  • Sleeping with makeup on
  • Putting in or removing contact lenses without thoroughly disinfecting them with lens cleaner

Bacterial infections can also cause styes to form under the eyelid. It will usually feel like you have some dust or sand trapped under your lid.

How Long Does It Last?

For those who are lucky, a stye can come and go within just a few days. Generally speaking, it should fade within a week or two. Talk to a healthcare provider if your stye does not go away within two weeks.

While more research is needed to pinpoint the most effective methods of treating a stye, experts say there are some steps you can take to help your stye go away more quickly.

Treatment

Styes can form on either the upper or lower lid and can last for a few days before they begin to disappear. They're often mistaken for a pimple, but the very last thing you want to do is pop them. Squeezing a stye may seem like you're doing your eye a favor by relieving it of the nasty gunk, but this can actually lead to infection, Dr. Pierce said.

The best thing to do is to adopt a literal hands-off approach. Styes typically naturally drain and heal on their own. Although it will usually disappear by itself, Dr. Pierce told us that applying a warm compress can help speed up the process of naturally draining the stye.

"Close your eyes and place a warm compress on the affected eye for 10-15 minutes up to four times a day," Dr. Pierce said. Just make sure to wash your hands thoroughly first and be careful of the water temperature when dampening the washcloth—it shouldn't be so hot to burn or scald the delicate skin around your eye.

If the bump on your eyelid appears worse or becomes more painful after 48 hours, or is accompanied by fever or vision problems, it's best to consult your healthcare provider. If it turns out that your stye is infected, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics. In rare cases, minor surgery may be necessary to drain the stye.

Avoiding Future Styes

While the stye itself is not contagious, the bacteria that caused it is, said Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. This means that it is possible to spread that bacteria to your other eye or to someone else if they come in contact with the same bacteria that caused the stye. Err on the side of caution and don't touch your eyes with dirty hands. Also, refrain from sharing makeup with friends.

To prevent these little bumps in the future, remember to always wash your hands with soap and water before touching your eyes, never share eye makeup or brushes, throw out expired cosmetics, and always remove eye makeup before going to bed (yes, even if you're exhausted).

Finally, while it may be tempting to conceal a red or inflamed eye bump with makeup, experts strongly discourage it. A stye may come and go in a few days, but it can actually take seven to 10 days for your eye to heal.

During the healing time, you should refrain from using eye makeup (mascara included) and, if possible, avoid using contact lenses. "You should also not use anything to cover it unless the 'boil' has drained and you're using a sterile bandage or gauze to prevent further infection while it finishes healing," Dr. Jaliman said.

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Sources
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