“I spy with my little eye…a STY?!?”
If you’ve ever woken up with a lump on one of your eyelids, it can be unsettling, to say the least. This has only happened to me once but the medical condition made a wearing contact lens in the affected eye very difficult so I wanted to get rid of this unwanted protuberance fast.
The medical term for an eye sty is a hordeolum. It is a red bump that appears suddenly and without warning on the outside edge of either the upper or lower eyelid. There are many small oil glands in the eye area, particularly around the eyelashes.
These fine glands (holes) may become clogged by a buildup of dead skin, dirt or oil. A blocked gland can foster bacterial growth inside the eyelid, producing a swollen and inflamed sty.
An infection at the base of an eyelash is called an external hordeolum whereas a sty that forms within one of the small oil glands within the eyelid is called an internal hordeolum.
Note that styes are contagious and often don’t interfere with normal vision. Avoid sharing linens with someone infected with a sty.
Experts say that an eye sty (or stye) will go away of its own accord after swelling for about three days. If it doesn’t, seek professional help. However, in many cases, treatment is a simple home remedy away. It can take 7-10 days for a sty to heal completely.
Before going any further, it’s very important to avoid touching and fiddling around with an eye sty, tempting as that may be. NEVER POP OR SQUEEZE A STY to get the pus out. This can cause the infection to spread.
To figure out how to treat my sty in the comfort of my own home, I searched online and discovered a very effective technique to drain a sty quickly:
First, gently clean the eyelid with mild soap (tear-free baby shampoo is recommended) and warm water. Then, take a clean sock and fill the toe with uncooked rice grains. Knot the top of the sock so the rice can’t fall out. Heat the rice-filled sock in the microwave until the grains become almost too hot to touch. Be careful not to burn yourself, especially around those sensitive eyelids.
Grasp the sock and squeeze the rice toward the toe area to make a rounded shape. Then, close the afflicted eye and carefully place the heated compress directly on the sty. Try to touch only the sty and hold the sock in place for a minute or two. Icky pus should start oozing from the center of the sty. Wipe this away carefully with a clean washcloth or alcohol swab. Avoid getting the fluid in your eye.
Repeat this procedure up to 3-4 times a day until the sty flattens after the fluid is extracted. If the sty collects more pus, start the localized heating process over again.
Getting rid of the pus hastens the healing process and eases the pain and swelling that accompany this malady. Sty symptoms include:
- Pain and swelling
- Increased tear production
- A crust that forms around the eyelid
- Soreness and itchiness
I wanted to know what caused my sty so I looked into that as well. The main culprit is old cosmetics, especially mascara. I changed mine out that day and had no further problems.
I wore my spare eyeglasses for a day or two while my sty healed. Contact lenses may be contaminated with harmful staphylococcal bacteria from the sty. Likewise, avoid wearing eye makeup until the sty is completely healed.
The staph germs are commonly found in the nose and are transferred easily when you touch or rub your nose and then touch or rub your eyes. (So don’t go there.)
A friend of mine who is a retired nurse swears by what she calls a “pee pack.” Urine contains uric acid, a powerful drawing agent. The treatment technique is similar to the one I just described. Heat a damp washcloth in the microwave and place it in a plastic baggie. Collect some urine in a suitable container and soak a piece of cosmetic cotton or a makeup application pad in the acidic solution.
Put the urine-soaked cotton on top of the washcloth inside the plastic wrapper. Avoid touching the urine with your fingers by holding the baggie up to the eyelid. The heated cloth will speed the uric acid into the sty. Pus should start to drain immediately so be ready with clean swabs or cloths to wipe up the putrid goo.
Another treatment option is a saline solution, either the over-the-counter type sold to contact lens users or one made at home with sterile water and salt.
A warm black tea bag may also serve as an effective drawing agent for sty pus. Gently massaging the eye area may also promote drainage. If touching is painful, stop massaging and try other treatment methods.
If home remedies fail to get rid of an irritating sty, a doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or topical antibiotic cream to apply to the eyelid. In persistent cases, a prescription for antibiotics in tablet or pill form may be appropriate.
The worst-case scenario would be a stubborn sty that resisted antibiotic treatment. In these cases, a doctor may make a small incision in the sty to drain the pus.
The best way to prevent eye styes is proper eyelid hygiene. Clean all makeup from both eyelids before going to bed and replace all your old eye cosmetics with new products.