How to Get Rid of a Stye: Home Remedies and Other Treatments for a Stye

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

If you’ve ever had a stye, you know they can be uncomfortable and painful. They can also interfere with your vision, and you might even be able to see it when you look in the mirror — right under your eyelid.

Styes are common and affect people of all ages, including children. Although they are usually not a cause for alarm, you might still want to get rid of a stye as quickly as possible. Here’s all you need to know about styes, their causes, symptoms, and some helpful home remedies and ointments for styes.

Stye causes and symptoms

A stye, also known medically as a hordeolum, is a red, swollen bump on the edge of an eyelid — often the lower eyelid. It is caused by an infection in the oil glands in the eyelid. These glands, known as meibomian glands, produce an oily substance that helps keep the eye’s surface lubricated. When these glands become blocked or infected, it can result in a stye. Symptoms of a stye include:

  • Red, painful bump on the eyelid
  • Swelling of the eyelid
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Discharge or crusting around the affected area
  • Feeling like there is something in the eye

Also, if you wear contact lenses, you may notice that your vision becomes blurry if a stye develops on your cornea.

A woman using eye drops to get rid os a stye

Generally, there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing a stye. Primary factors that can cause a stye include:

  • Blocked oil glands: The oil glands in the eyelid can become blocked with a variety of substances, such as debris or makeup, leading to an infection.
  • Bacteria: A stye can be caused by the presence of bacteria on the surface of the eye or in the oil glands of the eyelid.

Other risk factors for developing a stye are:

  • Dry eye: People with dry eyes are more prone to developing styes because dry eyes can lead to irritation and inflammation of the eyelid, making it more susceptible to infection.
  • Eyelid irritation: Rubbing or scratching the eye, or using harsh makeup or other products, can irritate the eyelid and increase the risk of developing a stye.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or menopause, can affect the production of oil in the eyelid and increase the risk of developing a stye.

Is an eye stye contagious?

A stye is not contagious in the way that a cold or flu is contagious. However, the bacteria that can cause a stye, such as Staphylococcus aureus, are present on the skin of many people and can be transmitted through direct contact. So it’s possible to develop a stye if you come into contact with someone who has a stye or who has recently had it. Also, stye popping can cause the infection to spread due to the fluid that is expelled.

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To reduce the risk of developing a stye, it’s important to practice good hygiene, including washing your hands frequently and avoiding sharing towels or other personal hygiene items. That being said, styes can be transmitted by touching the eye or sharing personal items like towels and cutlery.

How long does a stye last?

So, how long does it take for a stye to go away? A stye can last from a few days to a week, but the time it takes to go away depends on the severity of your infection. If you’ve left your stye untreated, it may spread and cause more problems in other areas of your eye.

How to get rid of a stye

If you have a stye, chances are, it’s going to be tender, sore, and painful. Here’s how to get rid of a stye.

Firstly, apply a warm compress to your eyelid for about 15 minutes three times per day. This will help get rid of the stye faster by encouraging it to drain more quickly.

You can also try using over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, stye ointments, and stye eye drops.

An antibiotic ointment can be used to treat a stye, but it’s usually not necessary. The warm compress applied to the affected eye several times a day can help to bring the stye to a head and drain on its own. But if the stye is particularly painful or does not improve within a few days, you may want to see a health care provider. They can prescribe an antibiotic ointment or drops.

Home remedies for a stye

Home remedies can be very effective for treating stye, especially when used in combination with other treatments. Here’s what you can do to treat a stye at home.

1. Keep the stye clean

Keeping the affected eye clean can help to reduce the risk of further infection and speed up the healing process. Here are some tips for keeping the stye clean:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Avoid wearing makeup or contact lenses.
  • Gently cleanse the affected area.
  • Avoid squeezing or picking at the stye.

2. Use a warm compress for a stye

To help soothe the stye, you can apply a warm compress on the affected area. Warm compresses help increase blood flow to the area around your eye, reducing swelling and inflammation.

To do this, simply soak a washcloth in hot water and squeeze it out so that it’s not dripping wet. Then place it over the stye for five to 10 minutes at a time three times per day until your eyes feel better. It may sting initially but will soon subside as the soreness begins to improve.

3. Apply some black tea

Another popular home remedy for styes is black tea. It’s a natural astringent that can help shrink a stye and fight infection — plus it’s readily available in your kitchen cabinet.

A cup of black tea that is one of home remedies for a stye

Soak a cotton ball or pad in boiling water that has been poured over the leaves of decaffeinated tea. Once the liquid cools slightly, apply it to your eye several times a day until you see results — usually within 48 hours.

4. Give your eyes some rest

Styes often cause a feeling of scratchiness or burning in the eye area. But it’s important to avoid rubbing your eyes because this can make things worse by spreading the infection around and irritating your eyes further. Instead, simply rest your eyes as often as you can.

You can do this by closing your eyes as often as you can throughout the day.

For example, take frequent breaks from using a computer screen or reading a book.

This will help prevent further irritation and swelling, which may make it easier to treat your stye.

If you wear contact lenses, switch glasses instead until full recovery, and start using a new pair of contacts once the stye is gone.

How to prevent styes

There are several steps you can take to help prevent styes. Some of them include:

  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently, especially before and after touching your eyes or face, to help reduce the risk of infection.
  • Clean your contact lenses: If you wear contact lenses, rinse them with a special disinfecting solution between uses. Regularly clean their case and put fresh contact lens solution in it. It’s recommended to change contact lens cases every three months to ensure proper hygiene and safety.
  • Avoid sharing personal care items: Do not share makeup or other personal care items, as this can increase the risk of spreading infection.
  • Use clean towels and washcloths: And wash them in hot water to help kill any bacteria that may be present.
  • Avoid rubbing or scratching your eyes: It can irritate the eyelid and increase the risk of developing a stye.
  • Use a clean, lint-free cloth to remove makeup: And be careful not to rub or pull at your eyes.
  • Keep your eyes lubricated: If you have dry eyes, use artificial tears or other lubricating eye drops to help keep your eyes moisturized and reduce the risk of developing a stye.

By following the tips above, you can protect yourself against styes and help prevent them from occurring. They are easy to deal with when they do occur, but it’s important to take the small steps necessary in order to keep them from happening in the first place.

Wrapping up

It’s important to treat a stye promptly to reduce the risk of complications and minimize discomfort. If home remedies and over-the-counter treatments are not effective in resolving the stye, it may be necessary to see a doctor for further treatment.

Practice good hygiene and take other simple steps to prevent styes, such as using clean towels and washcloths and avoiding rubbing your eyes. If you have any concerns about a stye or any other eye health issues, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor.

February 24, 2023