Stye in your Eye

Dr. S.S. Gill, Consultant Ophthalmologist

In our continuing series on Eye Health, Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr. S.S. Gill talks to us about STYE.

A stye is an infection of the hair follicle of an eyelash. It is also called hordeolum. It presents as a small painful lump on the outside (external hordeolum) or on the inside (internal hordeolum) of the eyelid. It basically looks like a pimple on the eyelid (called “ketumbit” in Malay).

A stye is not harmful to vision but does cause a discomfort to the eye. It can occur at any age but most often affects infants and children. It is most often caused by bacteria called staphylococcus. This bacterium is found in high concentrations within the nose and therefore is easily transferred to the eyelids by our unwashed fingers!

When an eyelash follicle gets infected with the bacteria, it swells up and becomes filled with pus. The eyelash follicle then looks like it has a pimple on the eyelid becoming red and painful.

Symptoms of stye may include the following:

    * Diffused redness in the affected area of the eyelid.

    * Burning and droopiness of the affected eyelid is another common symptom.

    * Later, a pimple-like lump appearing on the eyelid.

    * A yellow point at the centre of the red lump appears when it fills up with pus.

    * Occasional discomfort during blinking of the eye.

    * Tearing or watering of the eye, and increased sensitivity to light occasionally.

    * Later, crusting on the eyelashes if the stye ruptures and pus is expelled out.

What causes a stye?

Pretty much everyone has the potential to develop a stye without outside contamination since it is most often caused by bacteria in the nose. This bacteria is transferred easily to the eye when you rub first your nose, then your eye.

However, people with certain chronic conditions like diabetes mellitus, chronic skin conditions (seborrhoea) and chronic illnesses that reduce immunity are more prone to developing styes than the general population.

How are styes treated?

Most styes heal on their own within a few days. Warm compresses applied for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a day, over the course of several days helps to encourage resolution. It relieves the pain and helps “ripen” the stye very much like a pimple. The stye usually ruptures to drain the pus collection and finally heals.

Remember never to “pop” a stye like a pimple; but always allow it to rupture on its own. The internal type of stye (that appears inside the eyelid) may sometimes not heal and therefore require drainage of the pus by your eye practitioner. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic eye ointment along with oral antibiotics depending on how severe it is. If you suspect you have a stye that keeps on worsening, seek medical attention.

More on treatment and prevention of a stye in the next issue.

For more information, contact Gill Eye Specialist Centre at 05-5455582, email: or visit

1 thought on “Stye in your Eye

  1. Visual disorders like cataract, glaucoma, and AMD can lead to blindness.
    Blindness is the worst form of disability. Protect and take care of your eyes always.

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