What Are the Potential Causes of a Stye?

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  • Sebaceous gland: Also known as the Zeis gland, this is located on the margin of the eyelids, attached to the eyelash follicles. When clogged and infected, the Zeis gland will produce the typical visible form of a stye
  • Another crucial factor that contributes to the development of a stye is the Staphylococcus bacteria. This family of bacteria is considered one of the most common causes of infectious diseases. In fact, around 500,000 patients in American hospitals are affected by this annually

Despite the prevalence of styes in various age groups, races and genders, not everyone is really aware of what causes this condition or the triggering factors that may increase the chances of developing it. This is why some people may confuse it with other forms of skin diseases, or fail to keep it from reoccurring.

If you want to gain better control of the frequency and severity of stye flare-ups, then knowing exactly how you become infected with it may help.

A Stye Can Grow on Different Eyelid Glands

A stye starts when a particular gland in your eyelid becomes clogged with foreign particles, like oil and dead skin cells. But did you know that different types of eyelid glands are actually involved in the occurrence of this condition? These are the:1

  • Sebaceous gland (Zeis gland) — This is located on the margin of the eyelids, attached to the eyelash follicles. Its primary function is to produce an oily substance, which lubricates the eyelashes and keeps them from drying. When clogged and infected, the Zeis gland will produce the typical visible form of stye.
  • Sweat gland (apocrine gland) — This is found on the edges of the eyelids, where it empties into the eyelash follicles to prevent it from drying out. Similar to the sebaceous gland, a clogged sweat gland can also lead to an external stye on the margins of the eyelid.
  • Meibomian gland — This is a modified form of sebaceous gland that’s found inside the eyelids, where it keeps the eyeballs lubricated by producing oils, which make up the tear film. If a meibomian gland becomes clogged and infected, it can develop an internal stye.

Aside from the glands mentioned above, a stye may occur when the base of an eyelash (known as the follicle) becomes infected with bacteria.2

Staphylococcus Bacteria Are Responsible for This Eyelid Infection

Another crucial factor that contributes to the development of a stye is the Staphylococcus bacteria. This family of bacteria is considered one of the most common causes of infectious diseases. In fact, around 500,000 patients in American hospitals are affected by this annually.

Staphylococcus bacteria are so abundant that they’re naturally found on the skin and mucous membranes of humans, causing infections when they enter the body through broken skin and other entry sites.3 There are more than 30 different types of staphylococcus,4 but only two are commonly associated with a stye infection,5 and these are:

  • Staphylococcus aureus — The Staphylococcus aureus bacterium is the leading cause of skin and soft tissue infection, as well as other serious health issues like pneumonia and blood infections.6 Around 90 to 95 percent of stye cases are caused by this type of Staphylococcus bacteria.7
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis — This bacterium is considered the second most common cause of styes, and is typically found on the skin.8 It’s also the leading cause of nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections.9

Factors That May Put You at a Higher Risk of Developing a Stye

Several risk factors may increase your chances of getting a blocked and infected eyelid gland, which ultimately leads to a stye. While some risk factors are unavoidable, many of them are common habits that you do without realizing that they can damage your eye health, including:10,11,12

Touching your eyes with unwashed hands

Using old or contaminated cosmetics

Using contact lenses that have not been disinfected

Improper removal of eye makeup

Hormonal changes

Other types of eyelid-related diseases, such as blepharitis, meibomitis and rosacea

To prevent the risk factors mentioned above, make sure that you always maintain good personal hygiene. You should also work with your physician to determine the best way to manage eyelid-related disorders so that they don’t cause styes.

MORE ABOUT STYE

Stye: Introduction

What Is a Stye?

Stye Symptoms

Stye Causes

Stye Treatment

Stye Prevention

How to Get Rid of a Stye

Is a Stye Contagious?

How Long Do Styes Last?

Stye FAQ



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