5 home remedies to treat styes naturally, according to eye doctors

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5 home remedies to treat styes naturally, according to eye doctors
To treat a stye at home, wash your eyes with a gentle, tear-free cleanser.GlobalStock/Getty Images
  • The best home remedy for a stye is to wash your eye and eyelid with a gentle, tear-free cleanser like baby shampoo.
  • To treat styes at home, you can also apply a warm washcloth to your closed eye for 10 to 15 minutes three times a day.
  • If your stye is causing pain or disrupting your vision, contact an eye doctor as it may be another, more serious eye condition.

A stye is a bacterial infection that causes a swollen bump to form on the base of the eyelash or eyelid. These bumps form like pimples, and can usually be treated at home.

Here's what you should know about styes and five home remedies you can use to treat the infection.

What is a stye?

Styes are small, red lumps on or around your eyelid that can be painful. They occur when an oil gland or hair follicle around the eyelid becomes infected or clogged.

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There are many oil glands around your eye that produce an oil that helps tears stick to the eye and keeps them lubricated, says Fiaz Zaman, MD, FACS, an ophthalmologist at Houston Eye Associates in Houston, Texas.

These glands can become blocked by excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria which results in a pimple-like formation on your eyelid. It's similar to how a pimple forms when the pores on your face become clogged up.

Symptoms of a stye include:

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  • A lump on the eyelid
  • Crusting around the eyelid
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Tearing

Styes can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, says Zaman. Here are some home remedies that can help alleviate symptoms of a stye and speed up the healing process.

1. Clean your eyelids

Maintaining good eye hygiene can help prevent and treat styes, says Micheal Nelson, OD, FAOO, an optometrist, and the president of the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

Here are some tips to help you keep your eyelids clean:

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  • Don't use expired makeup
  • Take your makeup off at night
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially if you wear contact lenses
  • Don't rub your eyes if you have allergies

If you do have a stye, you can clean the area with diluted tear-free baby shampoo, which is gentle on your eyes. This will help reduce bacteria around the stye and keep the possibility of an infection from spreading.

Maintaining proper eye hygiene by washing your eyelids and lashes with gentle soap meant to be used around the eyes every few days can also help prevent styes.

2. Use a warm compress

Placing a warm, moist washcloth onto the closed eye can help treat a stye.

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"The heat helps open the clogged pore and let the oily material that's stuck in there come out," Zaman says. He recommends applying the warm compress for 10 to15 minutes two to three times a day for best results.

Make sure you change out or clean the washcloth you use for the compress after each application to avoid spreading the infection to other parts of your eye.

3. Stop wearing eye makeup

Wearing eye makeup with a stye could irritate your eyes further and cause an infection to spread.

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Zaman suggests specifically avoiding makeup that is applied directly to the eyelid, such as mascara or eyeliner. He says eyeshadow is usually safe to wear as long as it is applied outside of the lid margin.

After your stye heals, it's best to throw out the eyeliner or mascara you used before you got a stye. Nelson says this is for two reasons:

  1. Your makeup could have been the source of the bacterial infection.
  2. You may have transferred bacteria from your infection to your makeup and could spread the bacteria to the other eye.

4. Consider not wearing contact lenses

Styes can interfere with the natural lubrication process of the eyes and may cause discomfort if you normally wear contact lenses.

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"The oil that is produced in the eyelid is part of your tear film and if you don't have enough oil going into your natural tear, your eye may dry out faster," says Zaman.

If you are experiencing dry eyes from a stye, you might want to avoid wearing contact lenses until your stye heals. However, Zaman says you can continue to wear contacts as long as your eye feels comfortable.

5. Do not pop

If you pop a stye, there's a chance you will push any infected material further into your eye socket, making the infection worse. "If the infection spreads, it can lead to further irritation or even compromise your vision," says Nelson.

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Styes should only be drained in a controlled setting, by an ophthalmologist, or on their own. Styes that drain naturally won't push the infection into the eye. "That's the body's taking it out through a natural pathway, which is okay," says Zaman.

When to see a doctor

If a stye is causing you pain, it's a good idea to get it checked out by a doctor so you don't experience unnecessary discomfort, says Zaman. He also says to immediately seek medical attention if your vision becomes blurred or impaired.

If the stye isn't causing you discomfort, they can last up to months without causing you issues. However, getting a stye checked out by a doctor can help differentiate it from other eye conditions which may be more serious, says Nelson.

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Other conditions that could be mistaken as a stye include:

  • Blepharitis: This condition causes inflammation of the eyelids
  • Ocular rosacea: This condition is a subtype of rosacea that affects the eye

A doctor may also prescribe certain treatments to get rid of the stye more effectively than at-home remedies. According to Zaman, these include:

  • Antibiotic cream, ointment, or tablets
  • Steroid shot
  • Controlled drain by an ophthalmologist

Insider's takeaway

Styes are common bacterial infections of the eye that cause a small bump to form on your eyelid. They are generally not harmful and usually go away on their own. Regularly applying a warm compress to the affected area and keeping your eyelids clean can help speed up the healing process. However, you should see a doctor if you experience pain or your vision becomes compromised.

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