NHS website

Stye

Find out about styes, including what causes them, what you can do to treat them and when to see your GP.

11 December 2018

Introduction

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:

How you can treat a stye yourself

To reduce swelling and help the stye heal:

  1. Soak a clean flannel in warm water.
  2. Hold it against your eye for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Repeat this 3 or 4 times a day.

To relieve the pain, take painkillers such as paracetamol ↗ or ibuprofen ↗. Don't give aspirin to children under 16.

Avoid wearing contact lenses and eye make-up until the stye has burst and healed.

Important

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.

Do

  • 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

Don't

  • 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