If you’ve never had a sty on your eye, it can be a very distressing thing. Some come on so gradually that you don’t notice them until you’re rubbing your eye without relief. Though others seem to pop up overnight.

On a technical level, a sty doesn’t develop on the eye at all. Instead, it is a type of bacterial infection that affects one or more of the small glands at the base of an eyelash. The bacteria then causes swelling and discomfort that usually irritates the sensitive surface of the eye.

In a certain light, a sty is a strange type of eyelid pimple. Most look like a red, painful lump near the edge of the eyelid. There might also be a white center that is filled with a small volume of bacterial pus. The irritation of the style on the sensitive surface of the eyeball leads many people to unconsciously rub the affected eye, which serves to increase discomfort. In a severe case, the swelling of the sty might be so significant that it affects your vision.

This strange kinship with pimples and boils drives some people to try to “Pop” or “Squeeze” the infected fluid out of the sty. Though this tends to be a bad idea, which can make the sty worse, or potentially even harm your eye itself.

How To Treat A Sty at Home

Most of the time, creating a style on the eye calls for some basic commonsense measures. They rarely need professional medical intervention.

Carefully Clean The Eyelid With Warm Water & Gentle Soap

This is one of those times when you want to break out a “No-Tears” shampoo like you might use to wash your child’s hair. The warm water and a washcloth can help remove oils from the surface of the skin to help the surface of the sty to dry out.

The operative word here is “Warm” not hot. The eye is a very sensitive thing and the skin of the eyelid is thinner than other parts of the face. Holding it gently to the affected eyelid can help soften the outer layers of skin, which might help express some of the infected fluid. If anything it can help soothe the pressure at the irritated edge of the eyelid.

Place Topical Antibiotic Cream On The Sty

Topical antibiotic creams like Neosporin can help reduce the infection, which might also help to reduce some of the inflammation. Though this isn’t always the sort of thing you want to do while you’re awake and going about your day. Instead, try to apply the topical antibiotic right before bed, then sleep on your side. That way any runoff from the ointment will drain away from the surface of the eye itself.

Take An Over The Counter Anti-Inflammatory Medication

Sometimes a standard dose of an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication like Ibuprofen will help reduce some of the pressure caused by the buildup of pus and other fluids in the eyelid. If anything, it can help to reduce some of the discomfort you are feeling.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I just squeeze the sty like a pimple or a boil?

It’s a bad idea to try to pop or squeeze a sty. Not only can you damage your eyelid, but you could also harm the underlying eyeball. Worse still, it could accidentally force the infected material down into the underlying soft tissues of the eyelid causing a worse infection. If there is a medical reason for the sty to be drained, it should be done so by a trained, professional physician.

What Can I Do To Prevent A Sty In The Future?

Try to avoid touching your eyes. If you do touch your eyes, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water first. A lot of the bacteria in a sty can come from contact with the hands. Women should also try to remove their makeup every night and gently clean the skin with mild soap and warm water.

If someone in your family has a sty, you should avoid sharing towels and washcloths. The bacteria from one sty can possibly transfer to someone else and spread the bacterial infection when washing or drying the face.

Can A Sty On Your Eye Be Infectious?

While you certainly can’t get a sty from being in the same room with someone, bacteria can transfer from their eyelid to their hands or another surface like a bathroom towel. If it then touches your hands and you touch your eye, there is a remote possibility that the bacteria could establish a presence on your eyelid as well.

How Long Does A Sty On The Eye Last?

For most people, the sty will clear up on its own in roughly two to four days. Though people with a history of eye infections or someone with a compromised immune system might take a week or more for the sty to fully abate on its own.

When Should I Seek Medical Attention For A Sty?

Most of the time a sty doesn’t require professional medical attention. Though if you are experiencing significant discomfort, you have more than one sty on an eyelid, or the sty is significantly impairing your vision, you might want to call your physician or eye doctor. They can usually assess over the phone if your sty is serious enough to warrants medical attention. They can also assess if it might be some other type of eye infection, which might require professional treatment.

Remember To Be Patient

As annoying as a sty on your eye can be, the truth is, it’s going to take some time for your body’s immune system to clear it up. While there aren’t any overnight cures for a sty, there are still some simple things you can do to help minimize symptoms and improve your body’s ability to clear the sty up on its own. Simple things like a warm wet compress and topical antibiotic can help the process along.