Eye stye remedies to treat painful lumps – and when to see a doctor

A stye is a red, painful lump near the edge of your eyelid that may look like a boil or a pimple.

They are often filled with pus and are caused by bacteria infecting an eyelash follicle or eyelid gland.

A stye usually forms on the outside of your eyelid, but sometimes it can grow on the inner part of your eyelid.

According to the NHS, styes are common and normally clear up on their own within two weeks.

However, with bumps around the eyes indicating some other serious health risks including cancer, how can you be sure it may not be serious?

What causes an eye stye?

Contrary to what some may believe, styes are not caused by stress.

However, some habits can make you more prone to getting styes.

These habits can make a stye keep coming back or cause you to have a stye that won’t go away immediately.

To help prevent styes, experts recommend following these tips:

Wash off makeup before bedtime so eye follicles don’t get plugged overnight
Replace eye makeup about every six months to avoid bacterial growth
Wash your hands regularly when using contact lenses
If you have allergies, do not rub your eyes

At-home remedies to treat stye

To reduce swelling and help the stye heal, follow these three steps:

Soak a clean flannel in warm water

Hold it against your eye for five to 10 minutes

Repeat these three or four times a day

Make sure you take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if the pain is really bad, and avoid wearing contact lenses and eye makeup until the stye has burst and healed.

Do not burst a stye or remove an eyelash yourself as this can spread the infection.

Most styes are harmless and will clear up on their own in a couple of weeks, but you shouldn’t self-diagnose.

If it’s a stye, the skin around it may be swollen and red and the stye may be filled with yellow pus. The redness may be harder to see on brown and black skin.

Your eye may be red and watery but your vision should not be affected, and styes usually only affect one eye but it’s possible to have more than one at a time.

The NHS site recommends seeing your GP if the stye is very painful or swollen or impacts your vision.

When to see a doctor for your stye

“Unusual bumps on the eyes that aren’t red or painful are likely other harmless issues like chalazion (a firm lump in an oil gland in the eyelid) or fatty deposits known as xanthelasma,” says Dr Matthew Goldman.

Like styes, chalazion usually go away by themselves.

Xanthelasma are not harmful, but are sometimes unsightly and a doctor can remove them.

More rarely, skin cancer can sometimes cause bumps in the eye area.

“Styes are generally easily managed and are usually an annoyance rather than a major problem,” Dr Goldman says.

“But if they don’t go away or you have other unusual symptoms, talk to your doctor.”