Out of all the places on your body to suffer from an injury or irritation, the eye is one of the worst. Our eyeballs and eye sockets are extremely sensitive and surrounded by hundreds of nerve endings, pores and ducts. Any upset to the natural order of things can be very detrimental, even if it’s not life-threatening.
Aside from being responsible for a vital sense – sight, the eye is also known as the window to the soul. Beautiful and mysterious, we all want our eyes to function properly while remaining without blemish. Unfortunately for the people who must deal with sties, however, that’s much easier said than done.
What Is a Stye?
Put simply, a stye is a relatively small yet surprisingly painful lump that forms right along the edge of your eyelid. In the United States alone, more than 200,000 stye cases are reported each year. Regardless of size or cause, some styes can last for several days or weeks and must be mitigated with a strong antibacterial.
However, most styes can be self-treated at home with the remedies mentioned below. Please understand that more serious cases may require medical attention. On the bright side, though, diagnosis of a stye does not involve the use of lab testing or imaging. Doctors will simply examine the area to determine which of the two types of stye you have: hordeolum or chalazion.
What Causes a Stye?
In general, styes are typically caused by some sort of bacterial infection in the eye. Transmitted through direct contact, styes may present themselves either inside or outside the eyelid. Further, each type of stye has a different cause and treatment regimen, but neither are contagious.
Hordeolum styes are caused by a blockage in one of the sweat glands around the eye, located on the lid at the base of the lashes. The sebaceous glands secrete a waxy material called sebum which may cause an inadvertent blockage if the eye is not cleansed properly. This form of stye is especially common among those who regularly wear makeup such as mascara or eyeliner.
Conversely, chalazion styes are caused by a blockage of another sort. The meibomian gland, which is special oil producer exclusive to the eye, becomes impeded in some way. The glands form a straight line along the rim of your eyelid, making them highly susceptible to bacterial infections if proper measures aren’t taken. In most cases, both hordeolum and chalazion styes can be treated without medication or medical attention.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Having a stye develop on your eyelid is sometimes most people can look forward to at least once in their lives. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to prevent it. That’s precisely why you need to know about these three common risk factors below:
- Meibomian gland dysfunction – Usually associated with other medical conditions such as acne rosacea
- Obstruction of a glandular opening near scar tissue
- Exposure to foreign substances such as dust, debris, pollution and/or makeup
Typically, the simple act of keeping your eye area clean can prevent the development of a stye. However, extenuating circumstances do exist. In fact, a genetic propensity for chronic meibomian gland dysfunction may be a contributing factor in many reported cases.
What Are the Symptoms?
Aside from understanding the risk factors, it’s also important to know the symptoms of a stye so you can begin treatment as soon as possible. Styes are generally categorized by the presence of a tender red upswell on or near the rim of the eyelid. Some of the most commonly associated symptoms include, but are not always limited to, the following:
- Having the sensation that something is in your eye, especially when you blink
- Feeling pressure in or around the eye
- Blurred vision, especially if sebum or pus gets into the eye
- Wateriness of the eye
- Pain centralized in or around the area of the characteristic bump
Keep in mind that styes are sometimes painless, meaning other symptoms must be taken into consideration before a diagnosis can be made or a treatment can be initiated. If chronic meibomian gland dysfunction is a factor, dry eye symptoms may be common as well.
Natural Home Remedies for Stye
For the most part, styes are non-life-threatening and easily self-treatable in the comfort of your own home. However, it may still be a good idea to see your doctor to make sure there are no other problems or concerns. After about 2-3 weeks most styes will burst open and release the pus inside of them. The clearing-up process will then begin and can sometimes last for another week or so.
Styes usually dissolve on their own without medical intervention. On the other hand, simple at-home techniques can speed up the process tremendously while also helping to alleviate the pain. For most people, the application of a warm compress may do the trick. Via washcloth, hold the warm compress on the area for 10-15 minutes daily. This will cause the stye to quickly drain and begin healing.
In addition to reactive treatment initiatives, there are a number of safe and effective home remedies for styes that require a little more knowledge than you’ve gained thus far. They’re commonly known as “prevention measures,” but they can still help you avoid the sting of a stye:
- Keep the eyelids clean and free of debris such as dust or makeup.
TIP: Use a gentle baby shampoo to scrub the lids of your eyes clean.
- Apply a warm compress daily, even if you don’t have a noticeable stye.
TIP: Do this at the end of the day to ensure maximum benefit.
- Eat a diet that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids to more easily manage inflammation, improve meibomian gland function and to enjoy better overall eye health.
TIP: Ask your doctor about preventative antibiotics, especially if you have chronic recurring chalazion styes.
- Wash your face and eye area with a gentle antibacterial soap or essential oil at least once per week.
TIP: Be sure not to get any soap or essential oil into your eyes.
A Note on Home Remedies for Stye The treatment option(s) you choose, and the preventative measures you use, will determine how quickly your eyes get back to normal. If the stye has not cleared up within 2-3 weeks, however, see a doctor immediately. In addition, certain preventative measures cannot be utilized by all people. For example, the preventative antibiotics mentioned above (doxycycline) should never be used by children or by women of child-bearing age.
If you enjoyed reading about home remedies for styes, you may also like to read The Hypnic Headache and How to Treat It.