If you have a painful swelling in your eyelid, you may be suffering from a stye. These pus-filled abscesses can develop on either the outer or inner surface of your eyelid and are typically caused by a bacterial infection. A stye won’t cause any vision problems, but can be painful and is often unsightly. Given time, styes usually disappear without medical treatment, but you can take action to relieve the symptoms and encourage the stye to disappear.
Make a warm compress by immersing a clean cloth or flannel in warm water, advises NHS Choices. Be careful not to use water that is too hot. Squeeze out the excess water and hold the compress against your eye for between five and 10 minutes. Repeat the process three or four times a day. The warmth will encourage the stye to release pus and once this happens it is likely to rapidly improve.
Prevent potential complications by keeping the area around your eye clean and free from any crusted pus. Sunderland Eye Infirmary's Directorate of Opthamology suggest using water and cotton wool balls for this. Boil some water and allow it to cool until it is lukewarm. Immerse a cotton wool ball in the water and squeeze out the excess liquid before running the ball across your closed eyelid. Throw the used ball away before repeating the action with fresh balls until any crustiness has been removed. Never wipe more than once with the same cotton wool ball.
Take a painkiller such as ibuprofen or paracetamol if the stye is particularly painful. Pain is more likely if the stye is on the inner surface of your eyelid. If you currently take any other medication, use a painkiller that is safe to combine with your medication. For example, ibuprofen is not recommended for anyone with known heart, liver or kidney problems, asthma or any other allergies.
Visit your doctor if the stye is very painful or fails to clear up. Sometimes styes can lead to infections of the eyelash follicle which your doctor may be able to relieve by removing the eyelash and giving you a course of antibiotics. Alternatively he may be able to release pus by puncturing the stye with a needle under local anesthetic. You should never attempt to do this yourself.
To reduce the chance of a stye coming back, maintain good eye hygiene by keeping the area around your eyes clean. You can use a warm compress or a cotton wool bud with water and baby shampoo for this, suggests private healthcare provider BUPA, but ensure you use a different compress or bud for each eye to avoid spreading bacteria from one eye to the other.