How to Treat a Stye

Important Caution. Please Read This!

Use the information on this site AT YOUR OWN RISK, and read the disclaimer.

Subscribe for Free!

Never miss a post or update.

BONUS: Right now, you'll also receive "The Survival Doctor's Ultimate Emergency Medical Supplies" report—FREE!

We respect your email privacy.

 Subscribe in a reader

Find The Survival Doctor on FacebookFollow The Survival Doctor on TwitterFollow Me on PinterestFollow me on GoodreadsSubscribe to me on YouTube

This survival-medicine website provides general information, not individual advice. Most scenarios assume the victim cannot get expert medical help. Please see the disclaimer.

Basic Stye Treatment: Always Do This, But Never Do That.

Hot tea

Drink your tea, treat your stye. Some people use teabags to treat their styes, but any warm, moist cloth will do.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

This is the second post in a three-part series on how to treat common eye problems.

Stye, sty, eye stye, (the medical term is a hordeolum)—whatever you call it, however you spell it, whether it’s external or internal (on the inner eyelid), a—let’s stick with stye—is a pimple. It’s a clogged-up, infected oil gland just like you get on the rest of the body. The problem is, this pimple is right smack-dab against one of the most precious and sensitive parts of your body: your eye. Because of that, you have to treat it with care.

The stye treatment with the best track record—the thing you always need to do first—the thing that will usually cure a stye—is also the simplest:

Apply heat. Moist heat is better. Apply it over and over again. Maybe ten minutes every two hours? Longer and more often if you have the time. Some people apply warm, moist teabags to the stye area. I guess they hold the warmth well, but any warm, wet cloth will do. Even if the whole eyelid is swollen and red, the stye should shrink down to smaller than a pea within a day or two. From there, it may drain out a little pus, or just go away.

To tell the truth, many styes will go away on their own. But they can ache and throb and impair vision, so the quicker they’re gone, the better. Besides, if you have my kind o’ luck, you’ll have the one where the infection gets worse and causes your eye to swell shut or, even worse, where the infection spreads onto your face.

>> Like this post? Get all the best medical survival tips! Subscribe in the upper right corner.

Two big don’ts when treating a stye:

  1. Never squeeze a stye. Most of the time you’re just spreading the infection. Since eyelid tissue is so loose, that’s awfully easy to do, and you’ll have a much bigger mess on your hands.
  2. Never poke a stye with a needle. Some patients I see just can’t seem to help themselves. For every bump or swollen spot, they just have to poke it with a needle. And when that makes the area about ten times worse, they come to see me.

See a doctor if:

  • The heat hasn’t helped within a day, OR
  • The soreness hasn’t gone away within two days, OR
  • The eyelid is looking worse. That’s rare. Even more rare is if the redness and swelling extend into the face. If that happens, get to a doctor pronto. If it surrounds the eye, you’re getting periorbital cellulitis. If that infection ever gets into the sinuses underneath, you’re in for big trouble.

If getting to a doctor is impossible and the heat is not working after a day:

  • You can try some antibiotic eye ointment if you have it.
  • If it’s getting worse, take oral antibiotics and try extra hard to get to that doctor.

If a lump lingers:

If the pain and redness go away but a lump remains, no, don’t get out that needle. The stye has become a chalazion. That’s just a big name for a little cyst, or sometimes scar tissue. Leave it alone until you can get to an eye doctor, who can remove it.

The good new is it’s rare that a stye becomes serious. The heat usually does the trick. Does anyone have home remedies for how to treat a stye that they’d like to add? I’d love to know them.

Read part one of the eye-problems series here: “Pinkeye, the Original Pink Slime … and the Impostors.”

(Subscribe to updates below.)

  • Subscribe for Free!
    Never miss a post or update.

    BONUS: You'll also receive "The Survival Doctor's Ultimate Emergency Medical Supplies" report—FREE!

    We respect your email privacy.

Stye photo courtesy of teresatrimm on Flickr. Teabag photo by Gary Otte; all rights reserved.

  • Tazz

    I have had my style for 2 years and I have tried everything and its getting bigger Pls give me some advice on how to remove it.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      It probably needs to be removed by an eye doctor. (see if the lump lingers).

  • Kyla

    So i have a sty, and its been since october 8th and its the 24th now. It started out with me rubbing it it hurt, then it got a little swollen and bigger. I put a compresse on it, and the red is faded, so its not really red but a little bit. The bump still remains with no pain. Help?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      See the section of the post on if the lump lingers.

  • Lynda

    Hi, I’ve been having a stye for almost a month now. From the beginning, it has been uncomfortable and had a big white ball as in the pimple probably. It got better since I did warm compresses and sometimes with a teabag and eye drops but one thing was that the redness of it wasn’t going away. I continually did warm compresses about 4-5 times a day and it still wasn’t making any progress. Just yesterday, right when I woke up, I felt pain on my eye and noticed I had a stye on the inside of the eyelid on the top of my eye and a stye on the bottom of my eye! I have a doctors appointment this coming week to talk about it but I just wanted to know if you knew anything about this and if there is any suggestions or recommendations. I am going highly going through a lot of stress though so I don’t know if its that but I just wanna hear from you! :) Thanks for all those tips you have given us though!!

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Lynda, for some reason I’m just seeing your comment. Sorry. How are you doing?

  • Pingback: how to treat a concussion | android firmware download()

  • Harper

    I have one on the inside my lower eyelid. It’s really painful and causing the area below my eye to look red and puffy. I’m on day 3 of this and today was the first day that the swelling showed up. I went to Urgent Care and walked out with a Rx for Cephalexin 500mg….4 pills per day for 7 days. The NP said he usually just advises people to apply heat to the eyelid, but since the area was red, he went with the prescription for antibiotics. I have also been applying a heat compress all day off and on I bought some OTC drops made for Stye’s that I bought in the eyecare section of the drugstore. Similasan makes these drops for Stye relief, but they don’t do anything for the pain or swelling. I might as well be dripping water in my eye..sort of a waste of money IMO.

  • Katie

    Rub it with a gold ring and it will go away – somtimes immediately but if not, certainly within the hour. Works for me every time.

  • Cramos

    Hello, 2 year old was given polymyxin drops and now has a swollen eyelid. Is this normal?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Could be from the infection or from a reaction to the drops. You should call whoever checked the child and see if you should do anything differently (maybe different drops?)

  • Jen

    I have had a stye for 4 days and I put heat every day, but today when i woke up it just got bigger. Its not growing anywhere around my face, but I have been putting heat and its just getting bigger. Any help?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      You should see your doctor, or go to an urgent care. You may need antibiotics and/or lancing. Meantime, you could try moist heat (never burning hot) all day, for 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off. But, it sounds like it’s doctor time.

  • boo

    Hi I have woken up with a inflamed left eye upper lid… I cant find a spot on it but my eye keeps running and leaving crusty stuff on my cheek… My eyelashes hurt so much and it is really uncomfortable to blink… If I take my 500mg amoxicillin antibiotics will it cure it.. Something isn’t right with it feels similar to a stye but 20 times more painful.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      If it is hurting that bad, you should see a healthcare provider today. Perhaps call yours or go to an urgent care clinic.

  • Ashley

    I had a chalazion forever and don’t know how to get ride of it I just now activated again I’ve been useing baby soap I need help I have it like in my uper lid not visible but a huge bump and same thing but on my lower lid help I tired going to doc and got a steroid shot but nothing it just discolored

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Ashley, have you seen an eye doctor (ophthalmologist)? As I wrote at the end of the article, if it’s giving you trouble, sometimes that type of doctor will need to surgically remove it.