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What Is a Sty?

A sty is a pimple or abscess on the upper or lower edge of the eyelid. It is a sign of an infected eyelid gland. Sties are usually harmless and rarely affect your eye or sight. Sties can occur at any age and tend to recur elsewhere in the lid.

Sties usually occur on the outside of the eyelid but they can also occur on the underside of the eyelid.

A sty can be a symptom of other ailments such as diabetes and chronic skin problems. Sties are not contagious. Sties are also called hordeolums.

Types of Sties

There are two types of sties: external (on the outside of the eyelid) and internal (on the underside of the eyelid).

An external sty starts as a pimple next to an eyelash. As it swells, it becomes red and painful. The swelling usually lasts several days before it bursts and then heals. Most external sties do not last very long.

An internal sty causes a red, painful swelling, but its location prevents the pus from appearing on the eyelid. The sty may disappear completely once the infection goes away. However, it may leave a small fluid-filled cyst that can persist and may have to be cut open.

What Causes a Sty?

Sties are usually caused by staphylococcal bacteria. Staphylococcal bacteria often lives in your nostrils and mouth.

Symptoms of a Sty

The most common symptom of a sty is, slight blurred vision; a red, hot, tender, uncomfortable, and painful swelling near the edge of the eyelid.

You should visit your doctor if:

  • Swelling does not subside within a few weeks.
  • The swelling interferes with your vision.
  • You have pain in the eye.
  • You have recurrent sties.

How are Sties Treated?

Treatments depend on the cause.

Common treatments for sties are:

  • antibiotic ointments
  • antibiotic solutions
  • oral antibiotic
  • surgery

If sties recur, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment or solution. Apply it to the eyelid (with your eye closed) as directed.

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