What to do when you have an eye stye?
An eye stye (hordeolum) is a painful inflammation of the eyelid. It is caused by a bacterial infection of the oil glands in the eyelid. These glands can become blocked with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria. When the gland is blocked and infected, it swells up and forms a stye.
The most common causes of an eye stye include:
- Bacterial overgrowth – The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus is commonly found on skin and eyelids. When conditions are right, this bacteria can overgrow and infect oil glands.
- Blocked oil glands – If the Meibomian glands become clogged with oil, dead skin cells or eyelashes, they can become inflamed and infected. This is more likely to happen if you have blepharitis or rosacea which can increase oil gland blockage.
- Eyelid inflammation – Conditions like blepharitis, rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis can cause inflammation of eyelids and make them more prone to develop a stye. The inflammation can block oil glands and allow bacteria to infect them.
- Hormone changes- Fluctuation in hormone levels may increase oil production in eyelids, increasing the risks of oil gland blockage and stye formation. This is more likely during puberty, menstruation and pregnancy.
- Chronic eye rubbing – Rubbing the eyes frequently can irritate the eyelids and spread bacteria to oil glands. This makes eye styes more likely to form.
- Lack of eyelid hygiene can allow bacteria, dead skin cells and oil to build up. This increases the risk of oil gland blockage and infection that leads to stye.
- Use of long-term or high doses of steroid eyedrops can alter oil gland function and eyelid inflammation and result in stye formation.
Possible treatments include:
Apply a warm compress to the affected eye for 10 to 15 minutes and do it 3 to 4 times a day. The heat will help draw infection out and reduce inflammation. Use a lukewarm towel or a reusable eye compress pack that can be heated in the microwave.
Gently massage the area of the stye to help drain it. Wash hands thoroughly and apply a warm compress for several minutes to soften the area then use the index finger to gently massage from the outside of stye towards the inner corner of the eye.
Do not pop or squeeze the stye. This can lead to scarring and the onset of an infection. Allow the stye to drain on its own after applying warm massages. If it does not drain on its own after 1 to 2 weeks, see an eye doctor.
Keep the area clean. Gently wash eyelids daily with a mild cleanser and warm water to remove oil, dirt and bacteria. Use over-the-counter eyelid wipes or scrubs. Pre-moistened eyelid wipes, especially those containing tea tree oil or hypochlorous acid can help to disinfect eyelids and remove oil, dead cells and bacteria.
Avoid eye makeup especially mascara, eyeliner and eye shadow as they can harbour bacteria that may lead to stye infection.
Avoid contact lens use as they can provide an environment for bacterial growth, so avoiding them reduces bacterial exposure.
Stye treatment and removal in Singapore
See an eye doctor if the stye does not improve with home treatments, gets bigger, causes vision problems or recurs frequently. Oral or injected medications may be required to clear the infection. The eye doctor can also surgically drain a persistent stye if necessary, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes. The doctor will give a small anaesthetic injection into the eyelid and make a small cut in the stye to drain the pus and remove all the excess tissue collected in the nodules. No stitches will be required. The eyelid may feel sore after the procedure and the eye doctor may place an eye patch over the eye which acts as a pressure for the blood to stop flowing and prescribe an antibiotic cream to the affected wound to prevent infection.