Styes are common and should clear up on their own within 1 or 2 weeks. They're rarely a sign of anything serious, but may be painful until they heal.
Check if you have a stye
A stye usually only affects 1 eye, but it's possible to have more than 1 at a time.
It's probably not a stye if:
- there's no lump – if your eye or eyelid is swollen, red and watery it's more likely to be conjunctivitis or blepharitis
- the lump is hard but not very painful – it's more likely to be a chalazion
How you can treat a stye yourself
To reduce swelling and help the stye heal:
- Soak a clean flannel in warm water.
- Hold it against your eye for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Repeat this 3 or 4 times a day.
To relieve the pain, take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to children under 16.
Avoid wearing contact lenses and eye make-up until the stye has burst and healed.
Important: Do not burst a stye
Do not try to burst a stye or remove an eyelash yourself. This can spread the infection.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if your stye:
- is very painful or swollen
- does not get better within a few weeks
- affects your vision
Treatment from a GP
If you have a stye, the GP may:
- burst the stye with a thin, sterilised needle
- remove the eyelash closest to the stye
- refer you to an eye specialist in hospital
You cannot always prevent a stye
Styes are often caused by bacteria infecting an eyelash follicle or eyelid gland.
You're also more likely to get a stye if you have long-term blepharitis or rosacea.
You can help avoid styes by keeping your eyes clean.
wash your face and remove eye make-up before bed
replace your eye make-up every 6 months
keep your eyelids and eyelashes clean, especially if you have blepharitis
do not share towels or flannels with someone who has a stye
do not rub your eyes if you have not recently washed your hands
do not put contact lenses in before washing your hands
Page last reviewed: 26 February 2021
Next review due: 26 February 2024