You've probably heard of "stye," or perhaps you've experienced it yourself. It's a very common infection that's characterized by a small, painful lump on the eyelid. Anyone can get it, regardless of age, gender or race.1 It can be very uncomfortable to have, especially if it blocks your vision.
But what exactly is a stye and why does it occur on the eyelid, of all places? To better understand this painful and annoying eye infection, let's first discuss how your eyelids work.
How Your Eyelids Function and Why They Develop a Stye
The eyelids are probably one of the most underappreciated yet crucial parts of the body. From the outside, they simply look like a flap of skin. However, they actually play a crucial role in your eye health by providing these four primary functions:
- Protect the anterior surface of the eyeballs from injury
- Help regulate the amount of light that reaches the retina
- Distribute and maintain the protective tear film over the cornea
- Pump tears from the conjunctival and lacrimal sacs
Furthermore, your eyelids are made up of numerous parts, and among them are different types of sebaceous glands that secrete oil to help keep your eyes from drying. These oil glands are located inside and around the edges of the eyelids.
There are instances wherein dirt, oil and dead skin accumulate inside these oil glands, providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Once bacteria settle inside these oil glands, it won't take long before a stye develops. The eyelash follicles around your eyelids can become infected with bacteria as well.2
A Quick Overview of Styes: Their Causes, Symptoms and Progression
Also known as hordeolum, a stye is an infection caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. It's considered one of the most common types of eyelid infections. In fact, an average person is likely to develop a style once or twice at some point in their life.3
This condition affects the upper and/or lower eyelid, producing a small painful bump that resembles a pimple. If you have a stye, initially you will experience soreness and swelling in one eyelid. These sensations eventually become localized, after which the stye will appear as a pustule with mild erythema.
While a stye may cause pain and discomfort, it's usually not serious and it often heals on its own within a few days even without treatment. However, there are rare cases wherein a stye may lead to serious eye problems, especially if it's not properly taken care of.4
Open Your Eyes About Styes With the Help of These Pages
Even though a stye is just a short-term minor infection, it can still disrupt your daily activities, as it usually causes visual disturbance. It can even be a cause of embarrassment, since it may lead to cosmetic deformity,5 not to mention that it's often filled with pus, which may rupture anytime.6
The good news is that you can keep a stye from worsening and possibly shorten its duration if you know how to manage it. Read these pages to learn more about this condition: its possible causes, the proper ways to diagnose it, the recommended treatment methods, and how you can keep it from recurring.
• Stye FAQ