A sty is a painful, red bump that forms on the edge of your eyelid. It may look like an acne pimple. The medical term for a sty is hordeolum (say: hor-dee-oh-lum).
A sty forms when bacteria get into the root of your eyelash (also called the follicle). This causes the oil glands in your eyelid to become blocked and infected. Sties may cause discomfort, but they are not usually serious and are easy to treat. They are very common, especially in children.
A chalazion (say: keh-lay-zee-on) is a firm (but less painful) bump in the middle of the eyelid. It is caused by an inflamed, blocked gland. A chalazion may also cause blurry vision. Treatment for a chalazion is similar to treatment for a sty; however, the bump may not go away for 2 to 8 weeks.
The main symptom is a swollen, painful, red bump on the edge of the eyelid. You may also have the following:
If you have any concerns, or if your sty does not go away after 10 to 14 days, talk to your family doctor. You should also call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
Your family doctor can diagnose a sty by examining your eye. No special tests are needed.
Sties can usually be treated at home and should go away in 7 to 10 days. Don’t try any over-the-counter medicines, drops or ointments without talking to your family doctor first.
The following are some things you can do to help your sty go away:
If a sty requires medical treatment, your doctor may use antibiotics, minor surgery to drain the sty or a steroid injection to reduce swelling. Your doctor may also treat any underlying conditions that are causing your sty or making it worse.
Anyone can get a sty, but they are more common in people who have any of the following:
The best way to avoid getting sties is to practice good hygiene. Make sure you keep your eyes clean and remove makeup and dirt. Throw away old eye makeup (for example, mascara should be replaced every 2 to 3 months), and do not share makeup with others. Always wash your hands before touching your eyes. If you wear contacts, wash your hands before putting them in and taking them out. Also, make sure that you disinfect your lenses correctly with a contact lens cleaning solution.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff