Stye - Are you prone to it?

Stye is a pain and, literally an eyesore to many of us. And for some, it's embarrassing.

According to folklore, you get it because you saw someone of the opposite sex naked. There is no truth to that particular old wives' tale. And also, you won't get this infection simply by looking at someone else who has them.

Styes are not contagious either. Country with hot and humid weather, (e.g. Singapore) are especially prone to getting styes.

What is a stye?

So what is it? Well, it is a small, painful boil that resembles a pimple. It results from an infection of the hair follicles along the margin of the eyelid, usually by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus.

A stye is usually filled with pus, and as it swells in size, it may make it difficult to see clearly because you cannot fully open your eye.

More than one stye can occur at a time, leading to a generalised inflammation of your eyelid - a condition known as blepharitis.

The best way to prevent styes is to maintain eyelid hygiene. That could be as simple as cleaning your eyelids every day. Washing your hands before touching your eyes is also a precaution.

While most doctors say diet has nothing to do with the condition, some believe that a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle can help keep styes at bay. Vitamin A and foods rich in vitamin A, such as carrots and green leafy vegetables, are good for the eyes.

Who is more susceptible?

While some believe that there is no particular age group or gender more susceptible to this condition. Some say that Males are more commonly affected - possibly from increased androgenic hormones and associated skin changes arising from that hormone's effect.

Androgenic hormones are steroid hormones such as testosterone or androsterone that control masculine characteristics. Styes can occur more often with those who go out in the sun a lot. Limiting ultraviolet exposure by using sunglasses and hats can help.

Some doctors, on the other hand, thinks women tend to be more susceptible to styes due to hormonal changes, as well as adolescents and those in their middle age.

Don't pop it like a pimples

A STYE may form on either the inside or the outside of the eyelid. It looks like a boil or pimple.

An external stye shows as a tender, red swelling on the edge of the eyelid. An internal stye will also be tender and may also have external red swelling.

When you have a stye, the affected eye may tear frequently, and it may feel like you have something in your eye. You are also likely to be sensitive to light. The entire eyelid may become swollen.

Most styes heal on their own in a few days - filling with pus, rupturing and disappearing. The release of pus relieves the pain.

Never "pop" the stye like a pimple. To relieve the pain and help the stye come to a point faster, soak a clean cloth in warm water, wring it out and apply it as a compress to your eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a day. An antibiotic ointment from a general practitioner or ophthalmologist can also be used.

Most styes will resolve by discharging spontaneously after such treatment. If the stye is large or does not rupture on its own, the doctor may lance it. This is a fairly simple procedure that can be performed in five minutes. A local injection is given to the eyelid where the stye is. Then a small cut, preferably over the 'inside' of the stye, is made. The eye is then padded for a few hours.


If you are prone to getting styes, it is important to keep your eyelids clean and oil-free. Use a cleansing solution formulated for eyes and gently scrub your eyelids every day.

When to seek medical advice

Most styes are harmless and do not affect your ability to see clearly. But see a doctor if:

  • Your eye is swollen shut,
  • It interferes with your vision,
  • It appears frequently with successive infrections,
  • It does not disappear on its own,
  • There is excessive pain,
  • If you have a high fever

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