How To Get Rid of a Stye

How to Treat a Stye at Home - Remember not to pick or squeeze the stye. Picking at the stye spreads the bacteria around, potentially causing new styes

How to Treat a Stye

A stye is a small red bump on the edge of your eyelid. It is caused by a blockage of the oil glands surrounding the eyelid, which can be due to a bacterial infection. The redness may not be immediately visible on darker skin. The most common type of stye occurs on the upper or lower eyelid because of a clogged hair follicle. Styes are often painful and tender to the touch but are rarely a sign of anything more serious. 

While there is no quick cure for a stye, it will most likely clear up on its own within one to two weeks. Good facial hygiene can help reduce irritation. Avoiding the use of contacts and eye makeup can help keep bacteria out of your eye and reduce the possibility of further complications. Applying a hot washcloth to the stye can help lessen pain. 

Plan a visit to your healthcare provider if your stye is bothering you or if it lasts longer than two weeks. They will most likely prescribe an ointment or lance the stye. They may also refer you to an optometrist or ophthalmologist, medical doctors specializing in eye health.

How to care a stye at home

How to care for a stye at home: Most styes will clear up on their own. The most important thing to remember is not to pick or squeeze the stye. Picking at the stye spreads the bacteria around, potentially causing new styes. It also worsens the irritation, making the stye redder and more painful.  

To help manage pain and reduce infection, apply a warm, wet washcloth to the eye for 10-15 minutes up to four times daily until the stye clears. Make sure the washcloth is clean so as not to aggravate the infection. 

Follow these tips to speed your recovery and avoid irritating your stye: 

  • Avoid wearing contact lenses or eye make-up such as mascara or eyeliner
  • Wash your hands and face thoroughly and frequently
  • Avoid touching the stye with your fingers, if possible
  • Always wash your hands before putting in or taking out contact lenses
  • Disinfect contact lenses in between uses or throw them out after each use
  • Remove eye make-up thoroughly every evening before bed
  • Use a gentle, ophthalmologist-recommended make-up remover 
  • Throw away any eye make-up that’s more than three months old

Any eye make-up that you use on a stye can become “contaminated” with the bacteria that causes the stye in the first place. Using it again can cause another stye as well as spread a bacterial infection to the other eye. If you are unable to avoid the use of make-up on or around a stye, it is recommended that you throw away the used make-up once the stye has healed.

Stye Medication

A variety of medications, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription, are available to help treat and manage styes.

Over the counter stye medication

If your stye is painful, you can take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkiller such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Bayer (aspirin), as directed. The painkiller should help ease the irritation and redness. Do not give aspirin to children under age 16. 

Prescription stye medication

If your stye doesn’t heal on its own after two weeks or if it reoccurs, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. You should also consider seeing an eye doctor such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist if you get styes frequently or if you have other reasons for concern. Proper medical intervention can prevent styes from becoming chronic.

Your healthcare provider will likely prescribe an erythromycin ointment, which is a topical antibiotic ointment used to kill the bacteria that causes styes and other infections. You will need to apply the cream to your stye for 7-10 days, as directed. 

Your healthcare provider may request a follow-up visit within 2-3 days to see your progress and to determine whether your stye has healed properly. If your stye hasn’t made any improvement and there is a concern for cellulitis (a bacterial infection that has spread to the inner layer of the skin), oral antibiotic treatment may be prescribed, but this is unlikely.

Surgeries and Procedures

In some cases, if the stye doesn’t go away on its own, your ophthalmologist or primary care doctor may decide to lance the stye. This is when the stye is pierced so the fluid inside it can be drained. This procedure is almost always done in-office as an outpatient procedure. You will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area and it will happen within a few minutes.

A stye should only be drained by a professional in a sterile environment. Do not attempt to drain or pick at your stye at home. 

Living with Styes

Styes are rarely a sign of anything more serious. Taking ibuprofen and using a hot washcloth can help you manage any pain or discomfort. Your stye will likely pass in one to two weeks, especially if you practice good hygiene and avoid irritants. Some people are more prone to developing styes than others, especially those with skin conditions or those who had styes in the past. 

You are more likely to experience a stye if you’ve had one of the following conditions:

  • Rosacea: A skin inflammation causing reddened skin and rashes, typically on the nose and cheeks.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: This is characterized by scaly rashes and flaky skin, usually on the scalp.
  • Dandruff: A common scalp condition where small bits of dry skin flake off, often accompanied by scalp itch. 
  • Blepharitis: An inflammation of the eyelids caused by clogged pores.
  • High cholesterol: Too much of the bad type of cholesterol (LDL, or low-density lipids) can limit blood flow, increasing the risk of heart failure.  
  • Diabetes: A group of diseases characterized by elevated blood sugar, or glucose, levels. 

If you are prone to styes, be sure to wash your hands and take extra care before you do the following:

  • Put in or remove contact lenses
  • Apply make-up, especially eye make-up
  • Rub your eyes
  • Use eye drops

While it may be impossible to completely irradicate any risk, following these practices will greatly reduce your risk of styes reoccurring. 

How to Treat a Stye at Home

You can treat an eye stye with home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. If these don’t help resolve it, it’s recommended to talk with a doctor. Your eyelids have lots of tiny oil glands, especially around the eyelashes. Dead skin, dirt, or oil buildup can clog these small holes. Bacteria can then grow inside and cause a sometimes painful, pimple-like stye to develop. This is also known as a hordeolum.

The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus or Staphylococcus epidermidis cause about 90–95% of styes. Styes usually go away on their own within 7–10 days. Below are six ways to speed up the healing process for styes.

1. Use a warm compress

A warm compress is the most effective way to treat a stye. The warmth helps bring the pus to the surface, dissolving it so the stye can drain naturally. Wet a clean washcloth with warm water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot. Wring the cloth, so it’s damp but not dripping. Then gently place it over your eye for about 10–15 minutes. Don’t squeeze or try to puncture the stye.

To keep the washcloth warm, reheat it every 30 seconds by dipping it in warm water and wringing it. Repeat the compress about four times daily for optimal results. Instead of using a warm cloth compress, you can use a warm tea bag. Black tea works best because it helps reduce swelling and has antibacterial properties.

Add boiled water to a mug, then drop a tea bag as if you were making tea. Let the tea steep for about one minute. Wait until the tea bag cools enough to place over your eye, then keep it on your eye for about 5–10 minutes. Warm it up every 30 seconds by placing it in warm water and wringing it. Use a separate tea bag for each eye.

“You can use black tea as a compress twice daily to reduce swelling and discomfort associated with a stye,” Dr. Mclee Tembo said.

However, the wetness might irritate the skin in some people, so you can also make a dry compress by placing a bit of uncooked rice in a sock and microwaving it for 20 seconds. Make sure to press on the bump to help it drain. You can do this three to four times each day.

2. Clean your eyelid with mild soap and water

Dr. Mclee advises avoiding harsh, synthetic chemicals when cleaning the eye area. Instead, ingredients should be hypoallergenic and nonirritating, he noted.

“The skin around the eyes is much thinner than the rest of your face. Therefore, you need to be careful with products you apply to your eye area,” Dr. Mclee Tembo noted.

He recommends using OCuSOFT to cleanse eyelids because it’s been shown to be effective against bacteria commonly found on the eyelid. Its formula effectively kills seven strains of bacteria, according to Dr. Mclee. You can also choose a tear-free baby shampoo and mix it with warm water. Use a cotton swab or clean washcloth to gently wipe off your eyelids. You can do this every day until the stye is gone.

Cleaning your eyelids also helps prevent future styes. Another option is to use a saline solution. It can help promote drainage and break down bacterial membranes.

3. Use OTC medications

Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain med, like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), to get relief. Follow the instructions on the package to make sure you’re taking the correct dose.

4. Avoid wearing makeup

Avoid wearing makeup if you have a stye. Makeup can irritate the eye even more and delay the healing process. You can also transfer additional bacteria to your makeup and tools, adding another infection to the stye. Wash your reusable brushes regularly. Throw out any eye products, such as mascara and eyeliner, over three months old. Also throw out any products you’ve used while having a stye, as they may contain bacteria.

5. Avoid wearing contact lenses

If you wear contact lenses, stick with glasses until your stye heals. Bacteria from the stye can get onto the contacts and spread the infection. Change to a new set of contact lenses when the stye heals to prevent reinfection.

6. Massage the area to promote drainage

You can massage the area in combination with lid wipes to promote drainage. Massage the area gently with clean hands. Once the stye drains, keep the area clean, and avoid touching your eyes. Stop massaging if it hurts.

Bottom line

A stye is a small red bump along your eyelid caused by bacteria in a clogged pore or hair follicle. A stye may be painful and tender to the touch, but it usually isn’t a sign of anything more serious. A stye will most likely clear up on its own within one to two weeks. To help with pain and to reduce infection, apply a hot, clean washcloth to the stye for about 10 minutes four times a day and take OTC painkillers. 

It is important to not pick at your stye and to practice good hygiene by frequently and thoroughly washing your hands and face. If possible, refrain from using contacts and eye make-up. If your stye hasn’t cleared up on its own within two weeks, or if your stye has reoccurred, consider a trip to your primary care doctor. They can recommend an appropriate course of treatment.


What triggers an eye stye?

A stye is caused by a bacterial infection. Most cases are caused by either Staphylococcus aureus or Staphylococcus epidermidis.

Can you pop a stye?

Bacteria cause styes, so don’t pop, squeeze, or touch a stye. It might seem tempting, but squeezing will release pus into the eyelid itself and may lead to a wider infection. Talk with a doctor if home remedies do not help clear it.

Are styes contagious?

Styes aren’t directly contagious. You cannot get a stye by coming in contact with a person who has one. It’s a phenomenon of local inflammation and irritation that can’t be spread to others through casual contact.

However, if you pick at the stye, you could spread the bacteria elsewhere. You could also introduce additional bacteria to the area, which can cause a secondary infection. Always wash your hands before and after touching a stye to prevent bacteria from spreading.

How do you prevent styes?

To avoid getting a stye, wash your hands with soap and water before touching your eyes. Remove eye makeup every night before sleeping. You can also clean your eyelids with an ear swab dipped in warm water and mild soap or shampoo. Getting a stye increases your risk of another one. Using warm compresses regularly can help prevent another from forming.

Unless you’re cleaning or applying warm compresses to the stye, avoid touching it to reduce bacteria spread and irritation. If you must touch the stye, make sure you’re doing so with clean hands. Wash your hands afterward. Washing pillowcases often is another step you can take to prevent styes.

How long does it take for a stye to go away?

A stye can last several weeks and even months if untreated, though you shouldn’t let it progress to months. If you find your stye lasts more than two weeks, talk with a doctor.

How do you make a stye go away fast?

The healing process of a stye can last about 7–10 days with home treatment. That said, you can get over-the-counter ointments or pads that might help it heal faster.

Styes are rarely a serious medical issue, but they can be irritating. It will eventually break open and drain.

When to see your doctor

If the stye is causing serious pain and interferes with your day-to-day activity, visit a doctor. They may prescribe an antibiotic ointment, erythromycin, which you apply for 7–10 days. However, research shows topical antibiotics are not always effective.

Talk with a doctor if your stye lasts longer than two weeks or does not resolve with home remedies. Also, see a doctor if you have reoccurring styes. It may be a sign of an underlying condition, such as conjunctivitis, blepharitis, or cellulitis. Other symptoms to talk with a doctor about include growing redness and swelling on the skin around the stye or inflammation and crusting in the eye area without a visible bump.

See a doctor immediately if you notice changes to your vision that don’t go away after you blink, or if your eye becomes sensitive to light. If symptoms do not improve, you may need to see an ophthalmologist for more specialized treatment. They may need to drain it, especially if it’s internal or affecting your vision.