Mar 24 2011
What is a stye? A stye is a plugged up oil gland that has become infected. It usually grows slowly and can become quite painful. If the inflammation reaches a point where there is a lot of pressure and if the infection continues to grow, it can seem unbearable! In many cases, the stye will resolve by itself if given enough time. In some less common presentations, the infection can spread beyond the eyelid and it can turn into a medical emergency. How are they treated? What should you do?
In most cases, the best thing to do is to make sure that the lid remains clean. A gentle washing of the eyelid area in the morning and in the evening may serve to keep the area clean and decrease the bacteria load around the oil glands. The most commonly prescribed treatment is frequent application of heat to the area. This can be achieved by a warm compress. The heat from the compress serves several purposes. First, it promotes the healing factors of the body to come to the area where the heat is applied. The body produces a number of remarkable healing products in the bloodstream. These factors remove the infected material. If the infection results in puss, then the heat may also serve to bring the pressure up in the area and thus promote the pointing and possible spontaneous draining of the area. With the warm compress, very gentle pressure is applied to the area (not too much) and if the stye points, then it will begin to slowly (sometimes quickly) drain out. If this points and drains, there will be an almost immediate relief of the pain.
If the infection spreads beyond the eyelid itself, then it becomes even more important to see a healthcare provider. In some cases, an oral antibiotic is prescribed to promote rapid healing and prevent further spread of the infection. It is always better to be safe than sorry. A visit to the doctor might reveal why the stye occurred. It is not uncommon to get a stye, but if they come back often, then there may be an underlying condition that must be treated in order to prevent further styes from occurring.
A warm compress can be made in several ways. Most importantly, there must be care not to apply too much heat to the area. I often tell my patients to use a washcloth and run it under very hot water. Fold it, and squeeze it out. Make sure that it not too hot and then apply the warm, moist cloth to the area and repeat this for at least five minutes and do this several times per day-more if the stye is really bothersome. Usually, within one to three days, the stye will become better. I always warn patients that it could get “worse” before it gets better. Stay in touch with your doctor. Make sure it is getting better.
The good news is that the human body is remarkable and the stye often gets better in days. When it doesn’t, it is time for more aggressive treatment©.