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Stye (Hordeolum): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

When it comes to the sensitivity of our eye health, even the smallest of issues can at times cause significant discomfort. One such commonly occuring concern is a stye, also known as a hordeolum.

This blog by Manhattan Medical Arts is dedicated to educate all the readers about this pain and discomfort-inducing conditioning. We will explore the causes of stye, its symptoms, diagnosis, stye treatment, as well as stye prevention, along with helping you determine when it’s crucial to seek professional medical help while suffering from this condition.

What is a Stye?

A stye a.k.a hordeolum, is a tender and red bump on eyelid. It resembles a pimple and can occur on the outside or even inside of the eyelid, known as external stye and internal stye respectively. Styes are typically caused by bacterial infections that often involve the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. These infections usually develop in the hair follicles of the eyelashes or the oil glands that located within the eyelids.

Stye Causes

A stye is primarily caused by a bacterial infection, often involving the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. This common bacterium is found on the skin and in various mucous membranes, including the eye. However, the infection occurs when these bacteria infiltrate the small hair follicles of the eyelashes or the oil-secreting glands within the eyelids.

While bacterial infection remains the central cause, there are additional factors that can also contribute to the development of styes:

  • Poor Eyelid Hygiene:
    Inadequate eyelid hygiene, such as not removing eye makeup before bed or touching the eyes with unwashed hands, can introduce bacteria to the sensitive areas around the eyes. This can lead to the clogging of hair follicles or oil glands, initiating an infection that results in a stye.
  • Blepharitis:
    Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids that often occurs due to bacterial colonization along the eyelid margins. This condition can create an environment conducive to stye development, as the inflamed and clogged oil glands provide an ideal breeding ground for bacterial growth.
  • Blocked Oil Glands:
    The oil-secreting glands in the eyelids, called meibomian glands, play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the eyes. When these glands become blocked, whether due to debris, infection, or inflammation, they can become infected and lead to the formation of a stye.
  • Hormonal Changes:
    Hormonal fluctuations, such as those occurring during puberty, menstruation, or pregnancy, can influence the body’s susceptibility to infections. These changes can impact the balance of bacteria on the skin and within the oil glands, potentially increasing the likelihood of stye formation.
  • Stress and Weakened Immune System:
    Stress and a weakened immune system can compromise the body’s ability to fight off infections. This can make the eye area more vulnerable to bacterial invasion and the subsequent development of styes.
  • Wearing Contact Lenses:
    People who wear contact lenses might be at a slightly higher risk of developing styes due to the potential for bacteria to accumulate on the lenses or in the lens case. Additionally, improper hygiene practices when handling contact lenses can increase the risk.
  • Personal Items and Shared Objects:
    Sharing items like towels, washcloths, or makeup with others can lead to the transfer of bacteria and increase the risk of stye development. Personal items that come into close contact with the eye area should be kept clean and not shared.

What Are The Symptoms of a Stye?

The symptoms of a stye are often unmistakable. These very distinctive symptoms include:

  • Redness and Swelling: The affected area becomes inflamed and swollen.
  • Pain and Tenderness: The stye can be painful and tender to the touch.
  • Discomfort: Blinking and rubbing the eye may cause discomfort.
  • Watering of the Eye: Increased tear production due to irritation.
  • Crusting: The stye might develop a crust on the surface.

How is a Stye Diagnosed?

A healthcare professional, usually an ophthalmologist or optometrist is capable of diagnosing a stye based on its appearance and the symptoms described by the patient. 

In some cases, they might gently swab the area to identify the bacteria causing the infection. However, complex diagnostic procedures are generally not required for stye diagnosis.

How To Get Rid of Stye?

Most styes can be managed effectively at home. Applying warm compresses to the affected area for 10-15 minutes several times a day can help open up the blocked gland, promote drainage, and alleviate discomfort. It’s important not to squeeze or pop the stye, as this can worsen the infection.

For more severe cases or those that don’t improve with home treatment, a healthcare provider might prescribe antibiotic ointments or oral antibiotics to address the bacterial infection. In rare cases, a stye might need to be lanced and drained by a medical professional.

Stye Prevention

Stye prevention involves practicing good eyelid hygiene – Here are some tips:

  • Remove Makeup: Always remove eye makeup before bed.
  • Wash Hands: Keep hands clean and avoid rubbing your eyes.
  • Avoid Sharing Items: Avoid sharing towels, washcloths, or eye makeup.
  • Clean Eyelids: Gently clean your eyelids daily, especially if you’re prone to styes.
  • Use Warm Compresses: Apply warm compresses regularly to keep oil glands open.

When to See a Doctor

While most styes can get resolved on their own with proper home care, you should only consult a doctor if:

  • The stye worsens or doesn’t improve after a few days.
  • Vision is affected or the eye becomes extremely painful.
  • The stye is recurrent or occurs frequently.
  • There’s a fever accompanying the stye.


While styes can be uncomfortable, they are generally manageable with proper care and hygiene. Remember, prevention is key – adopting good eyelid hygiene practices can significantly reduce the risk of stye formation.

If you experience persistent or severe symptoms of a stye, seeking professional medical assistance is vital. At Manhattan Medical Arts, our experienced team is dedicated to providing comprehensive eye care, ensuring your eye health remains a top priority.

– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any symptoms or medical advice, please consult with your physician, or call 911 for or Book an appointment with our board-certified doctors at Manhattan Medical Arts.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 08/17/2023

Learn more about our editorial process.

  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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