5 home remedies to treat styes, according to ophthalmologists

ByMartha R. Camara

Jan 7, 2021
  • The best home remedy for a stye is to wash your eyes and eyelids with a mild, tear-free cleanser like baby shampoo.
  • To treat styes at home, you can also apply a warm washcloth to your closed eye for 10 to 15 minutes three times a day.
  • If your stye is causing pain or interfering with your vision, contact an eye doctor as it may be another more serious eye condition.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference Library for more tips.

A stye is a bacterial infection that causes a swollen bump to form at the base of the eyelash or eyelid. These bumps form like pimples and can usually be treated at home.

Here’s what you need to know about styes and five home remedies you can use to treat the infection.

What is a stye?

Styes are small red bumps on or around the eyelid that can be painful. They occur when an oil gland or hair follicle around the eyelid becomes infected or clogged.

There are many sebaceous glands around the eye that produce oil that helps tears stick to the eye and keeps them lubricated, says Fiaz Zaman, MD, FACS, ophthalmologist at Houston Eye Associates in Houston, Texas.

These glands can become blocked by excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, resulting in a pimple-like formation on your eyelid. It’s similar to how a pimple forms when the pores on your face get clogged.

Symptoms of a stye include:

  • A lump on the eyelid
  • Crust around the eyelid
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Tear

Styes can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, Zaman says. Here are some home remedies that can help relieve the symptoms of a stye and speed up the healing process.

1. Clean your eyelids

Maintaining good eye hygiene can help prevent and treat styes, says Micheal Nelson, OD, FAOO, optometrist and president of the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

Here are some tips to help you keep your eyelids clean:

  • Do not use expired makeup
  • Take off your makeup at night
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially if you wear contact lenses
  • Do not rub your eyes if you have allergies

If you have a stye, you can clean the area with diluted tearless baby shampoo, which is gentle on your eyes. This will help reduce bacteria around the stye and prevent the spread of infection.

Maintaining good eye hygiene by washing your eyelids and eyelashes with a mild soap intended for use around the eyes every few days can also help prevent styes.

2. Use a warm compress

Placing a warm, damp washcloth over the closed eye can help treat a stye.

“The heat helps open clogged pores and let out the oily stuff that’s stuck there,” says Zaman. He recommends applying the hot compress for 10 to 15 minutes two to three times a day for best results.

Be sure to change or clean the washcloth you use for the compress after each application to avoid spreading the infection to other parts of your eye.

3. Stop wearing eye makeup

Wearing eye makeup with a stye could further irritate your eyes and cause an infection to spread.

Zaman specifically suggests avoiding makeup applied directly to the eyelid, such as mascara or eyeliner. He says eye shadow is generally safe to wear as long as it’s applied to the outside of the lid rim.

After your stye heals, it’s best to throw away any eyeliner or mascara you used before you had a stye. Nelson says it’s for two reasons:

  1. Your makeup could have been the source of the bacterial infection.
  2. You may have transferred bacteria from your infection to your makeup and you could spread the bacteria to the other eye.

4. Consider not wearing contact lenses

Styes can interfere with the eye’s natural lubricating process and can cause discomfort if you normally wear contact lenses.

“The oil produced in the eyelid is part of your tear film, and if you don’t have enough oil in your natural tear, your eye can dry out more quickly,” says Zaman.

If you have dry eyes from a stye, you may want to avoid wearing contact lenses until your stye heals. However, Zaman says you can continue to wear contacts as long as your eye feels comfortable.

5. Don’t Jump

If you burst a stye, there’s a chance you’ll push any infected material further into your socket, making the infection worse. “If the infection spreads, it can lead to further irritation or even compromise your vision,” says Nelson.

Styes should only be drained in a controlled setting, either by an ophthalmologist or by themselves. Styes that drain naturally will not push infection into the eye. “It’s the body that flushes it out through a natural route, which is good,” Zaman says.

When to consult a doctor

If a stye is causing you pain, it’s a good idea to have it checked out by a doctor so you don’t experience unnecessary discomfort, Zaman says. It also says to seek medical attention immediately if your vision becomes blurry or impaired.

If the stye isn’t causing you any discomfort, it can last up to months without causing you any problems. However, having a stye examined by a doctor can help differentiate it from other eye conditions that may be more serious, Nelson says.

Other conditions that could be mistaken for a stye include:

  • Blepharitis: This condition causes inflammation of the eyelids
  • Ocular rosacea: This condition is a subtype of rosacea that affects the eyes

A doctor can also prescribe certain treatments to get rid of the stye more effectively than home remedies. According to Zaman, these include:

  • Antibiotic cream, ointment or tablets
  • Steroid shot
  • Drainage controlled by an ophthalmologist

Insider’s Takeaways

Styes are common bacterial eye infections that cause a small bump to form on the eyelid. They are usually not harmful and usually go away on their own. Regularly applying a warm compress to the affected area and keeping your eyelids clean can help speed up the healing process. However, you should see a doctor if you experience pain or your vision is compromised.