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.
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 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