Eye styes. Causes, symptoms and treatments

Orzuelo en el ojo.

A stye is a red, painful lump near the edge of the eyelid. They are often filled with pus and resemble a boil or pimple.


An eye stye (hordeolum) is a bacterial infection at the base of the eyelashes. They are rarely a sign of anything serious.

  • External stye. These form on the outer part of the eyelid and are usually caused by an infection in the eyelash follicle.
  • Internal stye. These form on the inside of the eyelid and are usually caused by an infection in the inner eyelid glands that help keep the eyelid moist.
  • Chalazion. A chalazion is not a stye but looks similar and thus worth differentiating. It is also a red bump, but unlike a stye, a chalazion usually isn’t painful nor is it caused by a bacterial infection. Nevertheless, treatment for both conditions is similar.


  • A painful red bump along the eyelid edge.
  • Swelling of the eyelid.
  • Crusting along the eyelid.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Soreness and itching.
  • Eye tearing.
  • A feeling that there’s something in the eye.


A stye will usually go away by itself in one to two weeks. To recover faster you can apply a warm soapy washcloth for 10 to 15 minutes, from 3 to 5 times a day. Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may relieve pain. Do not squeeze or pop a stye as this can spread the infection.  

See a doctor if there is no improvement within 48 hours. An eye specialist may prescribe special antibiotics or drain the pus with a small cut.  

Risk factors

  • Suffer from rosacea, a skin condition that causes facial redness.
  • Use of face creams or cosmetic products that are expired or in poor condition.
  • Not thoroughly removing makeup before going to bed.
  • Use of dirty contact lenses or inserting them with dirty hands.
  • Rubbing eyes with dirty hands.
  • Inflammation of the eyelid (blepharitis).

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