Like hair elsewhere on your body, eyelashes grow from follicles, which lie just under the skin—in this case along the eyelid—and are composed of the hair root and connective tissue. A stye is a common, often painful, bacterial infection that occurs either in one of the many follicles or in an oil gland on the eyelid margin. The stye usually appears as a small red pimple or boil with a whitish head, though when it occurs deep in an oil gland it won't have any head at all.

Styes can be very painful when touched. Even with treatment, styes will frequently recur because the bacteria that infect the first follicle will spread to infect others; this can happen if you touch the eyelid, use contaminated washcloths, or squeeze the stye.

Symptoms of Stye

  • Tender, red bump at the base of an eyelash on the upper or lower eyelid
  • Itchy eyes
  • Tearing of the eye
  • Crusting on the eyelid

What Causes Stye?

A stye develops when one of the eyelash follicles or glands becomes clogged with oil or dirt. Having chronic blepharitis increases the risk of developing styes, and styes are also especially common in people with fair complexions, particularly those of Irish, English, and Scottish descent.

What If You Do Nothing?

Styes are generally harmless. Several days after a stye forms, it will usually burst and drain, relieving the pain in the process. The stye should subside completely within a week or so.

Home Remedies for Stye

  • Apply warm compresses. Wash the eyelids twice daily with a mild soap. Apply a warm washcloth to the eye for 10 minutes four times a day to increase blood circulation, which brings more infection-fighting white blood cells to the area helping the stye form a head. Once the stye opens and releases the pus, you will feel pain relief.
  • Continue to cleanse the eyelid several times daily. Cleaning the lid even after the stye drains will help prevent the bacteria from spreading.


  • Don’t rub your eyes. Rubbing can spread the infection to other eyelashes.
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses or eye makeup, which may aggravate the infection.
  • Don’t share washcloths or towels. Infection can be spread from contaminated bath linens.

Beyond Home Remedies: When To Call Your Doctor

If the stye doesn’t heal, or if it becomes unusually large, contact your physician. Also see your doctor if you develop many styes or if they occur frequently.

What Your Doctor Will Do

After a careful examination your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. A troublesome stye may be lanced and drained at your physician’s office.


The Complete Home Wellness Handbook

John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 04 Nov 2011

Last Modified: 05 Mar 2015