A stye is a small, painful red lump on the eyelid. They normally occur on just one eyelid, and are due to an infection.

  1. Common, localized infection
  2. Can be either internal or external
  3. Treated by reducing the swelling with a flannel

If you have a stye and it is particularly uncomfortable, or if you are worried about an infection, our doctors are available to help. You can book an appointment through our private online video consultation service to speak to a UK doctor online.

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What is a stye?

A stye is a red lump on or inside the eyelid, caused by a minor staphylococcal infection. It can either be internal or external.

Styes are very common and do not usually require any treatment. However, if they become extremely painful, the swelling can be reduced by using a needle to extract the fluid. In most cases, there is no cause as such for the development of styes. It's simply a case of something blocking the tiny oil glands around the eyelid, which creates a build up of fluid.

Who gets a stye?

You are more likely to develop a stye if you suffer from keratitis (a condition where the eyelids become itchy and inflamed), acne rosacea (a skin condition where random episodes of flushing and redness occur) or ingrowing eyelashes.

In terms of complications, styes can lead to conjunctivitis (pink eye) if the infection spreads by way of itching. It's also possible for a recurring, persistent stye to become a cyst if it doesn’t drain and heal effectively over an extended period of time.

If you have symptoms of a stye and would like to discuss how to manage them, or for a diagnosis, you can consult one of our GMC registered doctors through our online private video consultation service. Book a slot at a time that’s convenient for you.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020
Diagnosis and treatment

How is a stye diagnosed?

A stye presents obvious symptoms that make it easy to diagnose. It forms a small, red swelling. If the stye is external, the swelling will appear on the end of an eyelid near an eyelash, in a defined spot. If it's internal, the stye falls beneath the eyelid, producing a more general red swelling.

Will I need tests?

You will not need any tests to diagnose a stye. However, they can easily be confused with many other conditions that may cause an infection in the eye (and which may require tests). For example, dermatitis or keratitis. For a full list of the potential diagnoses for styes, click here

What will a doctor normally advise?

A doctor will normally advise you to apply a warm, clean flannel to the affected eye for 5-10 minutes a few times a day, to soothe the pain and reduce the swelling. A doctor will most likely tell you not to puncture the swelling, as this will happen naturally. 

What treatments are there for a stye?

Typically, treatment for styes consists of reducing the swelling. This does not require any topical medicines. 

If the stye is very painful, a doctor may suggest removing the eyelashes from the follicles that contain the infection, or draining the stye of fluid with a fine needle. This should be done by a healthcare professional.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020
Questions and Answers

How are styes treated?

A stye can be treated by alleviating the swelling with a clean, damp, warm flannel a few times a day, until the infection has passed (usually up to a week). If the stye is particularly painful or uncomfortable, a doctor can extract the fluid with a thin needle.

What treatments are there?

There are no antibiotic treatments or topical creams which are suitable for a stye. It just requires careful management until the infection has gone.

Can I consult a doctor about stye online?

Yes. If you think that you may have a stye, you can book an appointment with our UK doctors at your convenience. Our doctors are available to consult with at a time that’s best for you. They will advise you on the stye and whether you may need to see a specialist, if the infection is an indication of another condition.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020

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