Sty (or Stye)

A sty is when the oil gland of the eyelid becomes inflamed. It may develop into an infection with a small pocket of pus (an abscess). This can cause pain, redness, and swelling. In early stages, a sty is treated with antibiotic cream, eye drops, or a small towel soaked in warm water (a warm compress). More severe cases may need to be opened and drained by a healthcare provider.

Home care

  • Eye drops or ointment are often prescribed to treat the infection. Use these as directed. 

  • Artificial tears may also be used to lubricate the eye and make it more comfortable. You can buy these over the counter without a prescription. Talk with your healthcare provider before using any over-the-counter treatment for a sty.

  • Apply a warm, damp towel to the affected area for at least 5 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day for a week. Warm compresses open the pores and speed the healing. Make sure the compresses are not too hot, as they may burn your eyelid.

  • Sometimes the sty will drain with this treatment alone. If this happens, keep using the antibiotic until all the redness and swelling are gone.

  • Wash your hands before and after touching the infected eyelid.

  • Don’t squeeze or try to break open the sty.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. 

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider or seek medical care right away if any of these occur:

  • Increase in swelling or redness around the eyelid after 48 to 72 hours

  • Increase in eye pain or the eyelid blisters

  • Increase in warmth—the eyelid feels hot

  • Drainage of blood or thick pus from the sty

  • Blister on the eyelid

  • Inability to open the eyelid due to swelling

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or above, or as directed by your provider

  • Vision changes

  • Headache or stiff neck

  • The sty comes back

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