What Is an External Eyelid Stye?
An external eyelid stye is a red, painful bump on the surface of
the eyelid. The bump may resemble a pimple and be tender to the touch. An
external stye can appear anywhere on the eyelid. However, it is most likely to
form near the edge of the eye, where the eyelashes meet the eyelid. The
condition is more common in children.
An external eyelid stye is often caused by an infection as a
result of a clogged oil gland. Eyelids have numerous oil glands that maintain a
stable level of moisture in the eyes and that eliminate foreign particles in
the eyes by producing tears. These glands can sometimes become clogged with old
oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. When this happens, the substances and germs
start to build up in the gland, causing an infection. The result is a small,
red bump on the eyelid. This growth may be swollen and painful.
An external eyelid stye can last for several days before it
bursts and then heals. Some styes may heal on their own, while others may need
What Are the Symptoms of an External Eyelid Stye?
The symptoms caused by external eyelid styes can vary from person
to person. In general, however, styes are most often identified by the presence
of a red lump on the eyelid. Other symptoms commonly associated with a stye
- gritty feeling in the eye
- eye pain or tenderness
- eye tearing or leakage
- swollen eyelid
- light sensitivity
- redness and soreness at the edge of the eyelid
Although these symptoms are associated with external styes, they
can also be indicative of other eye infections. It’s important to contact your
doctor as soon as possible to receive a proper diagnosis.
What Causes an External Eyelid Stye?
An external eyelid stye can form when an oil gland in the eyelid becomes
infected. The infection is most often caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. These bacteria usually live around
the surface of the eyelid without causing any harm. However, when a gland
becomes clogged with dead skin cells or old oil, these bacteria can become
trapped in the gland and cause an infection.
The infection may occur in the following areas:
- eyelash follicle: This is a small hole in the
skin that an individual eyelash grows out of.
- sebaceous gland: This gland is attached to the
eyelash follicle and produces an oily substance called sebum, which lubricates
the eyelashes to prevent them from drying out.
- apocrine gland: This sweat gland is attached to
the eyelash follicle and helps keep the eye from becoming too dry.
People are more likely to develop a stye if they have a chronic inflammatory
eye condition, such as blepharitis.
Those who rub their eyes often with unwashed hands are also at an increased
risk. Since children tend to have the most direct contact with bacteria and may
not always wash their hands thoroughly, they are more at risk for external
styes than adults.
How Is an External Eyelid Stye Diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose an external eyelid stye simply by examining
the appearance of your eye. They may also ask your symptoms. In most cases, no
other testing is necessary.
How Is an External Eyelid Stye Treated?
In many cases, an external eyelid stye will go away on its own. Your
doctor may recommend certain home remedies to speed up your recovery time.
They might tell you to put warm
compresses over the stye. To do this, soak a clean washcloth in warm
water. Wring out the excess water and then place the washcloth over the
affected eyelid. This should be done three to four times per day for 10 to 15
minutes at a time. Applying heat encourages the stye to release any pus, which will
help drain the fluid and remove the infection from the oil gland.
Your doctor may also suggest using an antibiotic cream if you have
more than one stye, or if you continue to get styes on your eyelid.
During treatment, it’s important to avoid squeezing and rubbing
the stye. This can damage your eye and spread the infection to other areas of
If you normally wear contact lenses, you should switch to
eyeglasses until your stye goes away. Make sure to throw away your old contact
lenses and to wear new ones after the condition clears.
It’s also recommended that you avoid reusing any makeup worn
right before the stye developed. The makeup may carry bacteria that can cause
If the stye doesn’t go away with antibiotics or other treatments,
your doctor may need to surgically remove it. This is a rare occurrence.
Will My External Eyelid Stye Go Away?
In many cases, an external eyelid stye will go away on its own
within a few days. Even when treatment is required, the stye will eventually
disappear without causing any complications.
How Can an External Eyelid Stye Be Prevented?
An external eyelid stye can’t always be prevented. However, you
can reduce your risk by taking the following preventive measures:
- rinsing the eyelids every day with warm water
- disinfecting contact lenses and changing them
- completely removing all eye makeup before going
sharing towels or washcloths with anyone who has a stye