Styes are common and should clear up on their own within a week or two. They're rarely a sign of anything serious but may be painful until they heal.
Check if you have a stye
A stye usually only affects one eye but it's possible to have more than one at a time.
It's probably not a stye if:
- there's no lump – if your eye or eyelid is swollen, red and watery it's more likely to be conjunctivitis or blepharitis
- the lump is hard but not very painful – it's more likely to be a chalazion
How you can treat a stye yourself
To reduce swelling and help the stye heal:
- Soak a clean flannel in warm water.
- Hold it against your eye for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Repeat this 3 or 4 times a day.
Avoid wearing contact lenses and eye make-up until the stye has burst and healed.
Don't try to burst a stye or remove an eyelash yourself. This can spread the infection.
See a GP if your stye:
- is very painful or swollen
- doesn't get better within a few weeks
- affects your vision
Treatment from a GP
Your GP may:
- burst the stye with a thin, sterilised needle
- remove the eyelash closest to the stye
- refer you to an eye specialist in hospital
You can't always prevent a stye
Styes are often caused by bacteria infecting an eyelash follicle or eyelid gland. You're also more likely to get a stye if you have long-term blepharitis.
You can help avoid styes by keeping your eyes clean.
- wash your face and remove eye make-up before bed
- replace your eye make-up every 6 months
- keep your eyelids and eyelashes clean – especially if you have blepharitis
- do not share towels or flannels with someone who has a stye
- do not rub your eyes if you haven't recently washed your hands
- do not put contact lenses in before washing your hands
Page last reviewed: 11/01/2018
Next review due: 11/01/2021