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How do I Choose the Best Stye Ointment?

By B. Chisholm
Updated Feb 03, 2024
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Choosing the best stye ointment will depend on the symptoms, duration and severity of the stye, and most should resolve without any treatment at all. The majority of styes are caused by Staphylococcus aureus, so the stye ointment should contain an antibiotic that actively fights this organism. The most commonly prescribed stye ointment contains erythromycin, a broad spectrum macrolide antibiotic. Lubricant ointments may provide temporary relief.

Styes, or hordeolum, usually occur on the edge of the eyelid and look like a pimple or boil. Occasionally they may occur inside the eyelid, in which case a small lump will be seen below the eye. They can be painful and unsightly. When they occur on the outside, it is normally due to an infection and inflammation of one of the hair follicles of the eyelid. Internal styes are caused by an infection of the meibomian glands, which are the glands that secrete the oily substance responsible for keeping the eye moist.

Typically, styes are filled with pus and may cause inflammation of the entire lid. Warm compresses and regular gentle massage of the stye may speed up healing and help reduce symptoms. If left untreated, styes are usually self-limiting and will develop a head and then drain on their own within a couple of days to two weeks.

Ointment may speed up healing, but is generally not necessary. Erythromycin is the most commonly used stye ointment, although other various ointments are also effective, including bacitracin and tobramycin. In rare, severe or recurring cases, systemic antibiotics may be prescribed.

When working with styes, strict, hygienic methods should be observed. It is vitally important to wash hands before and after working with the eye, to avoid further spreading infection, as you apply warm compresses, massage or stye ointment. If possible, the wearing of contact lenses should be avoided while a stye is present.

Styes that do not respond to conservative measures may require lancing by the doctor. Piercing or bursting the stye should not be done at home. Occasionally the eyelash involved will be removed, which helps the stye to drain and disappear. When choosing a stye ointment to use at home, consult your doctor or pharmacist for the best option.

Application instructions depend on what kind of ointment is used, but it should generally happen every four to six hours. Some ointments are used more frequently initially. Dosing instructions from the doctor or package insert should be followed.

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Discussion Comments
By honeybees — On Sep 18, 2012

Whenever I get a stye I will use an antibiotic ointment at least twice a day. I think this helps it heal faster and also keeps it from getting infected.

If I have ointment on the stye, I am also less tempted to itch the stye, which only aggravates it and makes it worse. I will apply the ointment in the morning and evening until it has disappeared.

By SarahSon — On Sep 17, 2012

I don't know what causes a stye, but they can sure be annoying. Sometimes it seems like I get a little stye at the edge of my eye when I am under a lot of stress.

They will usually go away within a week or so, and I have never used any kind of ointment on them. In the evening before bed I will hold a warm washcloth on the stye for a minute or so. I don't know if this helps clear it up any faster or not, but it sure helps me feel a little bit better.

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