Last updated:

Reviewed by:

Dr Bryony Henderson

, Lead GP at Livi

Medically reviewed

A stye is a lump, usually on the eyelid, and it’s often caused by an infection. It’s benign and can resolve on its own within 1 to 2 weeks. Discover how you can help reduce its size and help with symptoms.

What is a stye?

A stye is a small lump on your eye which can be painful. It’s relatively common, and can be seen on the inside or outside of the eye. It forms because one of the glands or the hair follicles in your eyelid become infected.

What are symptoms of a stye?

You might notice:

  • A painful lump on the eyelid – it usually begins as a small lump which could resemble a pimple

  • Your skin becoming hotter or red

  • Watering of your eye

  • Yellow pus at the centre of the lump, which you’ll usually see by day 3

You shouldn’t notice any changes to your vision, like blurriness or pain, when you move your eye.

What causes a stye?

A stye can form when bacteria infect a hair follicle or a gland in the eyelid. It’s relatively common, with most people developing 1 or 2 in their lifetime.

How is a stye diagnosed?

A doctor will look at the lump on your eye and review your symptoms, and make a diagnosis based on those. Usually no tests are needed to make the diagnosis.

What are the different types of stye?

  • External stye – this is where there’s an infection of oil and sweat glands in the eyelid

  • Internal stye – this is where there’s infection of one of the tear-producing glands.

How is a stye treated?

  • You can manage the pain with regular pain relief medication, like paracetamol

  • To reduce the swelling, you can apply heat to the affected area. Try placing a clean flannel in warm water and holding this over the eye for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat this regularly throughout the day

  • If you have conjunctivitis alongside a stye, you may need antibiotics which you can get from a pharmacist or doctor.

It’s important not to try and pop a stye at home.

When should I seek help?

A stye is relatively harmless, and often doesn’t progress into something serious. If, despite treatment, the stye persists, the eye remains swollen and painful, or you notice changes to your vision, speak to a doctor.

If you have symptoms like a very painful red eye, swelling which involves the entire eye or pain on eye movement, visit an eye hospital at the first instance.

Frequently asked questions

Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi