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It's happened to most of us. You wake up one morning and as you rub the sleep from your eyes, you feel a bump. A soreness develops right on the lash line or eyelid of one of your eyes. Upon looking in the mirror you realize that you developed a stye.
Clinically called a hordeolum, these red, swollen, painful bumps on the eyelid are caused by a myriad of things, yet they all drill down to one thing; You have a blocked eye gland. This usually develops when the natural bacteria on our skin gets into our eyes and isn’t washed out by tears or cleansing.
Luckily, there is plenty you can do to help it heal quickly.
Don’t Bother It
Regardless of how tempting it can be, do not pop it. The eye area is very sensitive and can become infected easily. So hold off on the picking, and do your best to keep your hands off of it. Should it rupture, it could spread bacteria to other parts of your eye, which can lead to a much bigger problem.
Generally, it’s a good idea to leave your eyes alone. They do just fine on their own. Further irritation of the area can lead to scarring, and that is something we’re all trying to avoid.
Warm Compress Treatment
Get a washcloth or small towel and wet it with warm (not scalding!) water. Apply the warm cloth to your eye for five to ten minutes. Do this a couple of times during the day. This warmth will help open the blocked gland naturally, allowing it to clear itself out. The heat opens up glands, which will give the gland more room to self-clean. This is the most commonly recommended treatment, as it is non-invasive and allows the body to heal itself.
You can also take an over-the-counter pain medication, like Advil or Tylenol, to help lower the swelling and pain.
While you will want to try to cover up the sty, if you're a makeup wearer, refrain from eye makeup. Keeping the area clean can help it heal faster and keep it less irritated. Adding more makeup to the eye can only serve to make the stye more irritated or not be able to heal as quickly.
Wash The Area
Along with keeping the area clear of excess debris, you can also try an eye-friendly cleanser, such as hypochlorous acid. These types of cleansers are made specifically for the eyes and aren’t irritating or cause stinging. It will help clear out the gland. You can find these at most drug stores. Additionally, you can find anti-biotic ointment to apply to the area after cleansing.
With these steps, you should see the painful bump begin to diminish after about 48-72 hours, according to WebMD. Of course, if it doesn't get better, or even worsens, see a doctor. They can make sure it's not something more serious.
Now, What about prevention?
Let's all say it together: Wash Your Hands. By making sure your hands are clean, you're keeping debris and foreign matter out of your eyes. I feel like this is the slogan for 2020 and beyond. Just wash your hands whenever you’re going to be touching your face. There are so many bugs you can pick up throughout the day and this is the single most effective way to keep your eyes, and body, healthy.
Ensure that you’ve washed your hands especially if you’re inserting contacts. Dirty hands aren’t a direct cause of styes but are big contributors to the process that creates them. If you’re an allergy sufferer, try your hardest to not rub your eyes also. Try a sterile allergy eye drop instead to keep itching to a minimum.
Wash Your Face
Make sure you're not sleeping in any makeup. It's the worst idea to leave your makeup on overnight. Not only is it horrible for your skin, which can lead to acne and dull complexion, but the makeup can cause the very blockages that cause styes.
At a minimum, use a makeup wipe to get the eye makeup off before bed. Don’t leave mascara on overnight, as it can dry out and flake off into the eye. Sometimes these flakes can get trapped under your eyelid and cause tiny scratches. Nobody likes dealing with a scratched cornea! Use an oil-based cleanser to ensure any makeup is removed.
Replace Your Makeup
Along with not sleeping in your makeup, replace your mascaras every 6 months. You read that right. Six Months. I know that fabulous mascara you bought still feels like it works fine, it could be a breeding ground for bacteria. Every time you use your mascara, the wand will be introducing new microbes to the formula. To keep any bacterial invaders out of your eyes, replace that mascara!
Mascara also begins to dry out after each use, so the longer you use the same tube, the more likely the mascara is dried out and will flake off easier. Additionally, don’t share makeup applicators with others. Sharing mascara wands creates a situation that is ripe for infection. Keep your makeup and beauty products as clean as possible. Always throw things away if they develop a weird smell or texture.
When to Seek Help
If the stye hasn’t cleared up after 4-5 days, head to the eye doctor. If your vision is affected, or the stye begins getting bigger, seek help sooner. Your eyesight is precious and the bump could be an indicator of a bigger problem. According to the Cleveland Clinic, if you see redness spreading into your cheeks or forehead, you may have a bigger infection that needs to be addressed.
Sometimes a stye can be confused with a chalazion. This is a typically harmless swollen bump that is a swelling of the membranes around the eye. This is not caused by a blocked eye gland and instead is due to things such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) or other irritations.
As a general rule of thumb, if things get weird, see your doctor.