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  5. Eye Pimples - Causes, Treatments and Prevention Methods

You must have come across somebody complain about an ‘eye pimple’ at least once in your lifetime. An eye pimple, also called a stye, is not uncommon or a serious condition. You can actually treat it at home!

1. What Is An Eye Pimple?

An eye pimple is a small red bump that appears on or underneath the eyelid. Like your skin, your eyelids contain small oil glands. These can get blocked by oil, dirt and bacteria that eventually causes a stye.

2. Which Age Groups Are More Prone To Styes?

Children and young adults are more prone to styes, although it can happen to anybody at any age.

3. What Causes A Stye?

Styes can be segregated into external hordeolum and internal hordeolum.

External styes are generally caused when the oil glands on the lower or upper eyelids get clogged. A bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus resides on our eyelids (1). When the oil glands get infected, the oils they secrete become waxy and thick. This blocks the glands and allows more bacteria to grow.

A stye that appears for a few days is usually red and painful. This condition is also called " external hordeolum".

A chalazion (plural: chalazia) is a chronic condition. It is a stye that stays for months, and sometimes even years. A chalazion is also called an “internal hordeolum". Its cosmetic appearance is what makes it a matter of concern for most people. Chalazia may need to be drained out by a doctor.

4. What Other Factors Can Trigger A Stye?

Certain medical conditions can trigger styes.

A. Blepharitis

Adults are more prone to Blepharitis. This condition results in chronic inflammation of the eyelid. Symptoms include redness of the eyes and eyelids, itching, burning and sticky eyes. People with this condition are more prone to developing styes (2).

B. Ocular Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that usually affects middle-aged people. It causes redness and visible blood vessels.

Ocular rosacea results in inflammation and redness of the eyes. People with ocular rosacea often develop styes (3).

C. Lack Of Sleep And Nutrition

A weak immune system can trigger the development of a stye. Sleep deprivation and consuming unhealthy foods on the daily can contribute to the development of internal and external hordeolum.

5. What Is The Difference Between An External Hordeolum And An Internal Hordeolum?

A. External Hordeolum

  • Caused when oil, bacteria and dirt clog oil glands
  • Red, painful sore
  • Develops near the eyelash follicles, usually along the edge of an eyelid
  • Usually takes between 3-7 days to resolve

B. Internal Hordeolum (Chalazia)

  • Caused by acute bacterial infection and the enlargement of an oil-producing gland (meibomian gland) (4)
  • Not painful
  • Develop on the upper or lower eyelids, away from the eyelashes.
  • Can last for months to years

Note: The treatment for external and internal hordeolum are almost the same. They both are usually self-treatable and rarely require a doctor's intervention.

6. Symptoms Of A Stye

Styes differ in size. Some can be pea-sized while others may cover your entire eyelid. This is how you can determine whether your eyelid is actually have a stye.

  • Swelling in or around the eyelid
  • Increased tear production
  • Puss-filled bump/red bump in or around the eyelid
  • Soreness and itchiness

If your stye is not painful, it may be a ‘chalazion’. A chalazion may take longer to go away or may need to be surgically removed.

7. How To Treat a Stye?

Styes usually heal on their own. However, you may want to get rid of it faster because of its appearance through these methods:

A. Warm Compress

A warm compress is an effective way of draining a stye naturally. A warm compress loosens the crust and allows for the puss to reach the surface and drain out.

Take a clean cloth and wet it with warm water. Make sure the water is not too hot and isn’t dripping off the cloth. Place the warm cloth over the stye for 10-15 minutes. If the cloth loses its warmth in between, wet it again. Repeat this 3-4 times each day.

If you can’t find a clean cloth, cotton pads are the next best option.

B. Use a Warm Tea Bag

Warm tea bags are a good option for fast healing. Green tea and black tea have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties (5) (6). This may help reduce swelling and redness faster. Placing a warm tea bag on your stye can also help speed up the healing process.

Take a tea bag and dip it in warm water. Wait for about a minute and place the tea bag on your stye. Make sure the tea bag isn’t too hot. After all, you don’t want to burn your skin in the bargain! Leave the tea bag on for about 10 minutes. Repeat this 2-3 times a day.

C. Clean Your Stye With a Mild Shampoo/soap

Treating your stye with a mild soap or baby shampoo should be used to keep the stye clean (7). This prevents it from getting infected.

D. Massage The Affected Area

Massaging the affected area slowly can promote drainage naturally.

E. Antibiotics

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help you get rid of the stye. There is little evidence indicating the benefits of using topical antibiotics to treat a stye. However, erythromycin can be recommended by your doctor. (8)

F. Draining

A stye that is stubborn enough to stay for long may require to be drained out. The draining procedure has to be carried out by your doctor.

G. Steroid Injection

Intralesional corticosteroid injections have been reported to be effective in the treatment of a chalazion (9). Your doctor may recommend steroid injections to help reduce inflammation.

H. Avoid Wearing Eye Makeup And Contact Lenses

Wearing eye makeup, contact lenses or fiddling with your stye can irritate it. This can even delay the healing process or infect the stye.You may also transfer the bacteria onto your makeup tools which can infect your other eye.

I. Don’t Pop Your Eye Pimple

Popping a stye is just as bad as popping your pimples. Popping your stye can release puss and spread the infection.

8. How Do You Prevent Styes?

  • Maintain Hygiene: Make sure your hands are clean before touching your eyes. A lack of hygiene can contribute to the development of styes.
  • Clean your eyelids regularly with mild soap or baby shampoo.
  • Avoid sharing face towels with somebody else.
  • Remove your eye makeup before sleeping.
  • Avoid using dirty makeup tools.

9. When Does Your Stye Need Medical Attention?

Your stye may be required to be shown to a doctor if you experience one or more of the following.

  • It gets more painful
  • It increases in size
  • It is internal
  • It starts affecting your vision
  • It takes too long to go away

Styes can be stubborn, painful and not too pleasant in appearance. However, most styes are not serious conditions. Eyes are one of the most delicate organs of your body. Be careful not to poke or hurt them while treating a stye. If your stye is taking too long to heal or you aren’t confident about treating it on your own, take a trip to your doctor.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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