Why You Get Styes—And How To Cure Them
Photo by Serge Krouglikoff/Getty Images
It may look like a pimple, but you don't want to pop this persistent pink dot perched on your eyelid. A stye "is simply an abscess in a hair follicle—often an eyelash," says William Schaffner, MD, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "And they can be quite painful."
You've likely earned this little infectious lump by being less-than-hygienic—think touching something dusty, then rubbing your eye. "They usually occur without evident reason," says Schaffner. "And they're most often caused by staphylococcus aureus, the staph bacteria."
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You could also spot a pink dot because you're one of the unlucky few whose eyelids' meibomian glands, which secrete oils, regularly get blocked. "People who have a tendency to have blocked oil in their glands are therefore at increased risk of developing these styes," says Lisa Park, MD, clinical associate professor of ophthalmology at NYU Langone Medical Center. How do you know if you're prone to blocked glands? "A thorough eye exam is the best way of making this diagnosis," says Park. "A person who has frequent styes should also be checked."
Once you've got one, the best way to treat a stye is with a warm compress and local, topical antibiotic cream. "Wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and press it to your eye," recommends Park. You can do this several times a day. "This allows the stye to drain."
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And because styes are most often a product of unhygienic behavior, the best way to prevent them is by never touching your eyes with dirty hands and keeping your eyelids clean.
"For those patients who get blocked glands, I recommend lid hygiene with commercial lid wipes or lid-cleaning foam on a regular basis," says Park. "Another recommendation is taking flaxseed oil orally, which can help with this condition."
Styes won't disappear overnight, so don't wait to start your compress-and-antibiotic routine until the evening before a big event. "Often, we get patients who show up in our office with a stye days before a wedding, and unfortunately, there are not ways to make this disappear quickly," says Park.
Video: What Is A Stye? What Causes A Stye? How To Treat A Stye!
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