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Stye (Hordeolum)

A stye (hordeolum) is a rapidly developing infection of one or more of the tiny glands at the edge of the eyelid or underneath the eyelid that sometimes develops a small abscess.

•    The infection is usually caused by one of the Staphylococcus bacteria.
•    The edge of the eyelid becomes red, tender, painful, and swollen.
•    Treatment involves repeated hot compresses.
•    Internal styes may have to be drained by a doctor.

A stye is usually caused by a staphylococcal infection. Sometimes the person also has blepharitis. A person may have one or two styes in a lifetime, but some people develop them repeatedly. Rarely, a stye develops in one of the deeper glands of the eyelid (an internal stye).


A stye usually begins with redness, tenderness, and pain at the edge of the eyelid. Then a small, round, tender, swollen area forms. The eye may water, become sensitive to bright light, and feel as though something is in it. Usually, only a small area of the eyelid is swollen, but sometimes the entire eyelid swells. Often a tiny, yellowish spot develops at the center of the swollen area, usually at the edge of the eyelid. The stye tends to rupture after 2 to 4 days, releasing a small amount of pus and ending the problem.

With an internal stye, pain and other symptoms are usually more severe than with an external stye. Pain, redness, and swelling tend to occur underneath the eyelid. Occasionally, inflammation is severe and may be accompanied by fever or chills.


Although antibiotics are sometimes used to treat styes, they usually do not really help much. The best treatment is to apply hot compresses for 5 to 10 minutes 2 to 3 times a day. The warmth helps the stye come to a head, rupture, and drain. Because an internal stye rarely ruptures by itself, a doctor may have to open it to drain the pus. Internal styes tend to recur.


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