There are some self care and medical options for treating a stye, an infection of the sebaceous glands along the eyelid which is also known as a hordeolum. Many sties resolve on their own, and self care is often sufficient to treat the stye, with the condition typically clearing up within a week or so. For more stubborn sties, a visit to the doctor's office for additional treatment options may be necessary.
Sties form when bacteria enters the sebaceous glands along the eyelids, causing infection and inflammation. The area around the gland becomes puffy and red, typically turning into a small and sometimes very painful bump with a small white dot. When you treat a stye, the goal is to prevent the spread of bacteria, encourage the stye to burst so that it will drain, and to clear up the inflammation.
Home treatment starts with warm compresses. Take a clean washcloth, soak it in hot water, and hold it to the area several times a day. You may want to wash the area gently with a mild antibacterial soap afterwards, to discourage the bacteria from spreading. You can also use heated gel packs, warm potatoes, and heated eye pillows, but make sure to check the temperature against the inside of your wrist before you apply the compress to your eye, because if it's too hot, it can be very painful. You can also treat a stye with freshly used tea bags, which hold heat for some time.
Warm compresses ease the inflammation and promote drainage. When you treat a stye, you should never attempt to pop or puncture it, as you could hurt your eye or cause the bacteria to spread. Even if the stye is painful, patient applications of warm compresses usually do the trick. You can also take aspirin to bring down the pain and swelling. Eating a good diet to promote immune system health is also a good idea.
If a stye does not resolve, or it becomes very large and painful, you may need to go to a doctor to treat a stye. The doctor will prescribe antibiotic ointment to kill the bacteria, although you may need to continue with the warm compresses. Doctors can also drain sties with a needle, if they think this is necessary.
To prevent the recurrence of sties, get in the habit of washing your face every morning and evening to clear away bacteria. You should also try to keep your hands away from your eyes, and be careful with eye makeup. Never share eye makeup, as you may pick up bacteria that way, and wash eye makeup thoroughly off at the end of the day to prevent clogged glands and irritation which could lead to infection.