If you wake up with an uncomfortable lump near the edge of your eyelid, you may have a stye. While treatable, styes can be uncomfortable, annoying, and even painful. They’re also incredibly common. But what causes styes, and how can you prevent them?
What Causes Styes?
What Is a Stye?
First, let’s address the exact definition of a stye. The Mayo Clinic describes a stye as a “red, painful lump near the edge of your eyelid that may look like a boil or a pimple.” Styes can also form on the inner part of your eyelid. Like a boil or pimple, styes are often filled with pus, which can come to a head after a day or two. It’s easy to confuse a stye with a chalazion – another kind of small bump that forms on your eyelid – these are actually different conditions. The key difference is that styes, which are typically more painful than chalazia, usually involve an infection. Signs of a stye may also include eyelid pain and swelling, or excessive tearing.
What Causes Styes?
So, what causes styes? A stye is essentially an infection of the oil glands within the eyelid. These glands can get infected when bacteria are transferred to your eye, either on your hands or another implement. The following behaviors put you more at risk for styes:
- Frequently touching your eyes, especially with unwashed hands
- Inserting old or dirty contact lenses
- Sleeping in eye makeup
- Using old or expired mascara or other cosmetics
The following conditions can also put you at risk for styes:
- Blepharitis, which causes chronic inflammation along the edge of the eyelid
- Hay fever, which may make you rub your eyes
So, you’ve woken up with a stye. The good news is that most styes are very treatable, and a trip to the doctor’s office may not be necessary. Start with a warm compress, which you can make yourself by wetting a washcloth with warm water. Make sure to wring the cloth so it’s damp, but not dripping down your face. Once you’ve prepared your compress, just place it over your eye for about five to ten minutes. You can apply a compress up to four times each day; just make sure to use a clean washcloth every time. If you’d rather not use a cloth compress, you can also apply a warm tea bag to your eye to reduce swelling. Finally, you can use over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation and get pain relief.
Now that we know what causes styes, here are a few ways you can prevent them at home:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water.
- Keep your hands away from your eyes as much as possible.
- Throw away old cosmetics, and avoid sharing cosmetics with others.
- Remove any eye makeup before bed.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before handling glasses or contacts.
So, what causes styes? The truth is that all kinds of things can cause an infection of the oil glands within the eyelid. And while styes are a common issue, they’re also easy to treat. If your stye doesn’t improve over the course of 48 hours or so, make sure to reach out to your eye doctor for help.
If you still have questions about what causes styes, contact Heffington’s if you live in southwest Missouri. Since 1975, the Heffington family has been assisting the Springfield community with top-quality eye care and affordable eyeglasses and contacts. One of the unique features of our family-owned business is that we manufacture lenses at our own laboratory, giving us total control over the service and pricing, and we’re happy to pass our savings on to you. To learn more about our products and services, please get in touch with us online, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 417-869-3937 (Optiland location) or 417-882-3937 (House of Vision location). We look forward to hearing from you!