What is a Sty?

Q: I think I might have a sty. What exactly is that and how can I treat it?

A: A sty, known by eye doctors as hordeolum, is an infected oil gland which forms a red and painful bump near the edge of the eyelid. They eyelid’s oil glands can become infected from a buildup of oil, dead skin cells, dirt, or even eye cosmetics. This allows bacteria to grow inside which then causes the sty to form. A sty typically lasts for several days and is usually an abscess that fills with pus, gradually comes to a head, and will then burst and drain.
The symptoms of a sty are redness, pain, tenderness, foreign body sensation, and pressure. If the sty is draining, there may be a thick discharge that forms a crusty material that accumulates on the lashes or eye creases. Excessive tearing may also occur in response to eye irritation.
Stys are generally harmless and resolve on their own if they remain uninfected. To help treat the sty and to speed up the healing process, you can apply a hot compress for 10-15 minutes a few times a day. It is important to never ‘pop’ a sty, as this can cause infection and scarring. Also, be sure to maintain good eyelid hygiene and always remove eye makeup before sleeping. You should see your eye doctor if the sty does not go away after an extended period of time or if there are any signs of infection.

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