A stye is an inflamed oil gland at the edge of your eyelids, where the lash and lid meets. It is characterized by a tender, sore or red lump at the edge of the eyelid which looks like a pimple. It is caused by an infection of the eyelash follicle or the base of the eyelash. The bacteria that are usually responsible for the infection is staphylococcus which normally lives in the skin. However, if your skin has been damaged or wounded, the bacteria can infect them. One way of introducing the bacteria into the eyelash follicles is by touching the mucus from your nose and rubbing the eyes.
Generally, styes do not cause any damage to the skin or to the eyelids. They usually heal or drain on their own within a few days even without treatment. However, the infection may spread from one stye to another and the entire eyelids may become infected (although this can be a rare condition). When this happens, you may be required of getting a medical treatment such as antibiotics.
How does a stye look like?
Aside from tender, swollen and red lump, a stye may also develop larger and may have a white or yellow top. When you have this, it means that there is pus inside the lump. The yellow top can grow along pointing the edge of the eyelid, but it usually grows from the inside. When the stye breaks, pus may drain out of the lump which makes it smaller until it totally heals.
In some cases, a stye may develop a chalazion. This is when an inflamed oil gland becomes totally blocked. When this gets bigger, this may cause vision problems or may progress as an inflammation of the layers of the skin around your eye.
How can you treat a stye?
A stye can be very painful. A hot compress can help relieve the pain as well as get rid of the infection. As a first aid management, you may use any clean cloth or a cotton ball, heated and applied into the stye. The temperature of the hot compress should be tolerated well by your skin and in a way that you don’t get burned. Place the hot compress on the eyelid for 10 minutes or until it gets cold and replace for another one. You may do this for several times a day, ideally about four times. You may also use paracetamol to relieve the pain.
If your stye is severe, antibiotic ointments may be needed. In rare cases, they may be opened up by the doctor to drain the pus if it does not get better by itself. If the stye is still painful after a few days, contact your doctor.
Remember not to squeeze the stye in any way. If the stye is not ready to burst and you keep on touching it, the pus may be pushed into the surrounding tissues causing the infection to spread further. Make sure that your hands are clean before touching the stye and when placing the warm compress as not to spread the bacteria.
Better Health Channel. Stye. Retrieved on June 27, 2014 from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Styes?open.