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The edge of your eyelid contains hair follicles, oil glands, and sweat glands. They serve an important purpose of protecting and caring for the eye, but in some cases, they can become blocked and infected, causing a stye to develop.
Styes generally go away on their own, without needing medication from a doctor, how long can you generally expect it to last, and when has a stye been around for too long? Continue reading to learn more.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Stye?
- What Are the Symptoms of a Stye?
- How Long Does It Take a Stye to Go Away?
- Do Styes Go Away on Their Own?
- How To Treat a Stye?
- When To See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
What Is a Stye?
A stye is a lump on the edge of the eyelid that occurs when an oil gland, sweat gland, or hair follicle becomes clogged with dirt, debris, or dead skin. If a pathogen, most commonly staph bacteria, becomes trapped in this blocked gland or follicle, a stye can form.
Styes are generally tender and irritating to the touch, but they are overall not very dangerous.
There are two types of styes, internal and external. Internal styes form on the inside of the eyelid in the oil glands. In comparison, an external stye can affect the sweat glands or hair follicles on the edge of the eyelid, leaving a bump on the edges of the upper or lower eyelid.
Certain factors can increase your risk of developing a stye, including:
- wearing contact lenses
- previously having a stye
- using old or contaminated eye makeup
- not cleaning your eye area
- having other eye conditions such as infected or inflamed eyelid
- having diabetes, rosacea, or seborrheic dermatitis
What Are the Symptoms of a Stye?
The symptoms of a stye can include:
- feeling like something is in your eye
- redness, swelling, tenderness, or pain on the eyelid
- tearing and crusting of the eye
- being sensitive to bright light
- yellowish discharge
How Long Does It Take a Stye to Go Away?
Most styes take two to five days to get smaller and then between 7 and 14 days to go away completely.
In cases where treatment is needed, the stye will typically clear up within three to seven days of starting antibiotics.
Do Styes Go Away on Their Own?
Most styes go away on their own without needing a trip to the doctor. At-home remedies can further speed up the recovery process, but they are not needed for the stye to go away.
How to Treat a Stye?
As you now know, styes will generally go away on their own without needing medication from a doctor. To help speed along this process and ease discomfort, there are some at-home remedies that you can try.
When you have a stye, the most important thing to remember is to never squeeze or attempt to pop it, as this allows the infection to spread to the rest of your eyelid, creating a worse infection.
If you have a stye, the best thing you can do is take a warm compress and apply it to the stye for 5-10 minutes, three to five times a day. The heat from the compress helps to liquefy the hardened material in the stye, which allows it to naturally drain.
To further help the stye drain, try massaging it in circular motions while applying the warm compress or immediately after. This helps to break up the material inside the stye, allowing it to drain more easily.
Other at-home remedies for a stye include:
- washing your face, including the eye area, daily
- avoid touching the infected area
- refrain from wearing makeup until the infection heals
- avoid wearing contact lenses
While most styes do not require help from a doctor, there are some cases where this may be needed.
If your stye is very uncomfortable, your doctor can help by prescribing a special antibiotic cream or ointment that will be applied to the stye. However, it is important to only use doctor-prescribed creams on the stye because not all creams are safe to use near the eye.
In cases where the stye will not go away, a doctor can create an incision in the stye and drain it, removing all the pus and debris. Your stye will then be able to heal on its own.
When to See a Doctor?
While most styes will go away on their own and do not require a visit to the doctor, there are some cases when it is recommended to seek medical assistance, and they include:
- rapid growth of the stye
- a stye that does not improve within a few days
- a lot of swelling
- the drainage contains a lot of blood
- your vision is affected
These symptoms may signify the development of a spreading or more severe infection, which requires medical interventions to treat.
In addition, if your stye ever becomes immensely painful, spreads to other parts of your face, or you develop a fever or chills, seek urgent medical care.
If you find yourself with a stye that won’t go away, or frequent styes, an online doctor such as those available with DrHouse can help you discuss treatment options and ways to prevent future styes.
How long does a stye usually last?
Most styes go away on their own without the help of medical treatment. In these cases, the stye will often begin reducing in size after 2-5 days and be completely gone within one to two weeks. In cases where a stye requires medical treatment, antibiotics often clear up the stye within 3-7 days.
Why is my stye not going away?
Some styes result from more severe infections, which will not go away on their own. If your stye lasts for more than two weeks, it is recommended to see a doctor for an antibiotic prescription, which will help to clear up the infection. Your doctor may also opt to perform a minor surgical procedure to drain the stye. In some cases, if you attempt to squeeze or pop your stye, it may cause the infection to spread, which may be why your stye is not going away. In these cases, see a doctor for an antibiotic prescription.
Can a stye last for months?
Most styes last for two weeks or less. However, a chalazion is the name for a stye that did not fully form. It is a firm, rubbery bump that results when one of the oil glands on the edge of the eyelid becomes blocked. In some cases, they result because the blocked gland will not drain following a stye, even though it is no longer red or swollen. Chalazions often go away on their own within a month or so, and applying warm compresses to the chalazion can help with its draining process. A chalazion, however, is not tender, red, or swollen, which sets it apart from a stye. If you have a stye that lasts longer than two weeks, see a doctor, as they may want to start you on antibiotic treatment.
How long is too long for a stye?
A stye should start to clear up within two weeks, so if there have been no improvements in your stye within that time, it is time to see a doctor.
A stye results when a hair follicle, oil gland, or sweat gland on the edge of the eyelid becomes blocked and infected. While painful and uncomfortable, most styes go away on their own within just a few days.
At-home remedies can help the recovery process, but if your stye has not improved within two weeks, it is time to see a doctor. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream or oral antibiotics or suggest a minor surgery to drain your stye. All of these treatments can help treat the infection and reduce your discomfort.
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- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Styes and chalazia (inflammation of the eyelid): Overview. 2019 Dec 5. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557372/
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