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How to Treat a Sty

How to Treat a StyA sty can ruin anyone’s day. But surprisingly, many do not realize what they have is a sty or how to treat it. Although it isn’t a life-threatening issue, if left untreated, this unsightly condition (think that crazy lump on Quasimodo’s eyelid in Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”) can take longer to go away.


Before talking about what to look for when it comes to a sty, it’s helpful to know what a sty is. Simply put, a sty is a painful bump that appears around the eye area. Stys can appear as a pimple or red bump that can be found on the base of an eyelash, on top of the eyelid, underneath the eyelid or inside of it. This bump is very sensitive and tender to the touch.


There are a few ways a sty can develop. The most common is from a small infection of the oil glands found on the eyelid itself. When these glands - called meibomian glands - become clogged, a sty is created. Infected hair follicles at the base of an eyelash can also cause a sty to appear, as well as inflammation of the eyelid. But the most common cause of a sty results from a bacterial infection. It is for this reason that it is important to always wash your hands and to avoid touching and rubbing your eyes.


One of the easiest ways to tell if you have a sty is if you are experiencing redness, tenderness, irritation or itchiness around the eye area. As the sty grows, it is common for swelling to occur, along with watering of the eyes, difficulty or pain while blinking and sensitivity to light. The size of swelling varies but it can be very unsightly and uncomfortably heavy on the eyelid. To find the site of the sty itself, check along the eyelid area for a pimple-like bump that has a small, yellowish spot in the center.


While having a sty is not a life or death situation and poses no threat to your eyesight, dealing with the swelling and redness can be a huge discomfort. The size of the swelling varies from person to person. In most cases, the sty is completely harmless and goes away on its own within a few days to as long as a week. However, it is possible for stys to reoccur.


It is best to begin treating your sty as soon as you realize you have it. The best treatment for a sty is to put a warm compress or cloth to the area for 10 minutes multiple times throughout the day. 4-6 times a day is ideal. Many people who do not realize they have a sty mistake it for regular inflammation and put a cold compress, which not only defeats the purpose but can make the sty last longer. After a few days, the sty will be ready to drain. Like a pus-filled pimple being popped, the yellow spot at the sty’s center will be the outlet for the pus to drain. Persistent stys can be drained by a doctor or surgically removed.


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