Styes: A Real Pain in the Eye

It starts with a little tenderness. Then you notice a little bit of swelling. Soon it feels like there’s something stuck under your eyelid. Styes are a common and irritating eye issue. But what causes them? And are they ever a cause for concern? What Exactly are Styes? Styes are small abscesses appearing on the inside or outside of the upper or lower eyelid. The staphylococcus bacteria (usually transferred from the nose) infects the glands in the eye, producing a painful, pus-filled lump, often resembling a small pimple. Styes are contagious and can spread through contact, however almost everyone has

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It starts with a little tenderness. Then you notice a little bit of swelling. Soon it feels like there’s something stuck under your eyelid. Styes are a common and irritating eye issue. But what causes them? And are they ever a cause for concern?

What Exactly are Styes?

Styes are small abscesses appearing on the inside or outside of the upper or lower eyelid. The staphylococcus bacteria (usually transferred from the nose) infects the glands in the eye, producing a painful, pus-filled lump, often resembling a small pimple.

Styes are contagious and can spread through contact, however almost everyone has stye causing bacteria in their body. Nevertheless, it’s important to maintain good handwashing habits, and avoid sharing makeup and pillows to keep the bacteria from spreading and causing discomfort in others.

Symptoms

While a stye most likely won’t affect your ability to see, it can cause pain, discomfort, and sensitivity to light. A stye lump is usually red and quite warm, sometimes with a white head that resembles a pimple. The abscess is usually found near the edge of the eyelid, and can cause the patient to feel as though there is a foreign object in their eye, regardless of whether the stye is on the inside or the outside of the eyelid.

Other Common Eye Bumps

Not every stye is actually a stye. The bump that’s bothering you could actually be something else, and it’s important to know the difference in order to seek the right treatment and avoid potentially bigger problems.

Chalazion

When an oil gland in the eye become blocked and enlarged, it’s known as a chalazion. These bumps are commonly mistaken for styes, as they appear and feel similar, however they are typically found more in the centre of the eyelid. After a few days, the chalazia will harden and become painless. Healing can take several months, and sometimes require steroid injections to facilitate the process.

Milia

These white “pinhead” bumps often appear around the eyes of newborns. Milia occur when dead skin cells don’t fall away the way they’re supposed to, getting trapped in a sweat gland or hair follicle. The tiny cysts typically clear up on their own in children, however they usually require surgical excision in adults.

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