While most eye styes are uncomfortable, they do not normally threaten your vision. However, understanding how they are caused and how you can prevent them could help reduce or even eliminate this annoyance.

What Causes Styes

Hordeolums, commonly referred to as styes, are painful red lumps that can form on the outside or inside of your eyelid. External types are most common and usually start in an eyelash follicle but can sometimes start in an oil gland. Internal types can be especially painful because they usually form within an oil gland and push on your eye. Most styes are caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus. This type of bacteria is found on your skin and is normally harmless. However, when it becomes trapped in a hair follicle or oil gland, it causes an infection and pus to accumulate.

Steps You Can Take to Prevent a Stye

The most common way a stye is caused is by simply rubbing or touching your eyes, especially if you suffer from allergies or hay fever. This simple act can transfer Staphylococcus or other bacteria to your eye.

The best ways to lower your risk of developing a stye include:

  • Not rubbing or touching your eyes
  • Washing your hands often with soap and warm water
  • Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Taking allergy medications to relieve eye itchiness
  • Washing your hands before removing or putting your contacts in
  • Keeping your contacts clean and disinfected
  • Not reusing disposable contacts
  • Treating conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, or blepharitis that increase your risk of a sty
  • Replacing your eye makeup as recommend

What if You Develop a Stye?

Because styes are caused by bacteria, you want to take precautions to prevent transferring that bacteria to others or your other eye. Make sure to:

  • Not share or reuse pillowcases, washcloths, and towels
  • Frequently wash your hands
  • Not use eye makeup or share makeup
  • Throw out your old makeup
  • Not wear contact lenses until your stye has healed

When Should You See a Doctor?

Most styes are harmless and will disappear on their own. However, if your stye does not begin to improve after 48 hours of applying warm compresses, or the redness and swelling spreads, you need medical attention. If you have concerns about an eye stye or frequently have them, it is time to talk to an eyecare professional. Call the Valley Eyecare Center at (602) 955-2700 to schedule an appointment with one of our eye doctors.