Learn about symptoms and causes of styes, self help treatment options, medication and when to seek medical help.

What is a Stye?

A stye (sty) is a red and swollen bump on the eyelid that looks like a pimple and is usually painful. It happens when a gland at the edge of the eyelid becomes infected. Styes may form on the upper or lower eyelids. Most styes get better on their own after a few days to a week.

What are the possible causes of this condition?

A stye is formed when a small oil-producing gland on the eyelid becomes blocked and bacteria grow inside the blocked gland. They tend to form on the outer part of the eyelids but may also form on the inner eyelids (facing your eyeball). Styes often develop over a few days, and you may have more than one stye at a time. 

Styes may be caused by: 

  • Touching your eyes without washing your hands
  • Inserting your contact lenses without thoroughly cleaning them or without washing your hands well
  • Leaving on eye makeup overnight
  • Using old or expired cosmetics
  • Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids)

What are the symptoms of a Stye?

Other than a red, swollen and painful bump on the eyelid, symptoms may also include: 

  • Eyelid soreness or itching
  • Eyelid swelling (sometimes the entire eyelid)
  • Watering of the eyes 
  • A gritty, scratchy feeling, as if there is something in your eye
  • Sensitivity to light (your eyes feel uncomfortable in bright light)
  • Discharge from your eyes

What can I do to treat a Stye?

A stye may be treated in the following ways: 

  • Using a warm compress
    • Fill a bowl with water that feels hot, but not scalding, to the touch. Wet a clean towel with the hot water and squeeze it so that the water does not drip. With your eyes closed, put the warm towel over your stye. When the towel cools, repeat the steps to warm the towel and put it back over the stye. Continue these steps for about 15 minutes and do this 4 times a day.
  • Cleaning eyelids
    • Gently wipe away eye discharge with a mild soap solution. This may be made by mixing an equal amount of baby shampoo and water. You may also use eyelid wipes that can be bought from a pharmacy.

Always wash your hands well with soap and water before and after touching a stye. Do not: 

  • Touch a stye unless you are cleaning it or applying a warm compress. 
  • Squeeze or try to pop your stye. This can make it worse.
  • Keep rubbing or touching your eyelid.
  • Wear makeup or contact lenses until the stye is healed.

When do I need to see a doctor?

Although styes may be treated without a doctor’s consultation, there are times where the condition might be more serious. 

If your condition does not get better in 1 to 2 weeks after using warm compress regularly or gets worse, you should see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • The stye becomes very big, very painful or bleeds. 
  • You have problems with your eyesight.
  • You have a blister (bubble containing liquid) on your eyelid.
  • You have crusting (dried discharge) along your eyelids or flaking of skin from your eyelids.
  • Your whole eyelid is red or swollen.
  • The redness or swelling spreads to your cheek or other parts of your face.
  • Your eyeball is red. 
  • Your eyes feel very uncomfortable with light or become very watery.
  • Another stye comes back soon after the last one goes away.

What else can I do to manage this condition?

The following are some suggestions to prevent styes from happening again: 

  • Avoid touching your face and eyes. When you need to touch these areas, wash your hands well with soap and water before doing so. 
  • If you wear contact lenses, wash your hands well with soap and water before and after putting on or removing them. Clean your contact lenses thoroughly as advised by your eye care provider. Always throw away contact lenses after the recommended period of use. 
  • If you wear eye makeup, remove your eye makeup thoroughly at the end of the day and throw away old or expired makeup. Do not share eye makeup with others.
  • If you tend to get styes often, using a warm compress regularly may help to prevent it from coming back. You may also clean your eyelids regularly with a mild soap solution or eyelid wipes.
  • If you have blepharitis, follow your doctor's instructions on how to care for your eyes.



This article is jointly developed by members of the National Medication Information workgroup. The workgroup consists of cluster partners (National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and SingHealth), community pharmacies (Guardian, Unity and Watsons) and Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. The content does not reflect drug availability and supply information in pharmacies and healthcare institutions. You are advised to check with the respective institutions for such information.

The content above is solely for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem. 

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