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Alternative Names
hordeolum, sty

A stye is a bacterial infection of the small glands near the inner corner of the eye or near the base of the eyelashes.

What are the signs and symptoms of the infection?
A stye appears as a red, tender, raised area. It usually develops over a 24-hour period near the eyelashes or the inner corner of the eye. There may also be blurred vision and aching.

What are the causes and risks of the infection?
The main cause of a stye is the bacteria staphylococcus aureus (staf-ah-loh-kock-us or-ee-us). Other bacteria may be involved less often. Styes are most common in children and adults with diabetes, those who are in poor health, or who have chronic eyelid infections. Styes can also occur when there is poor hygiene or an unclean environment. If left untreated, the infection can spread, causing cellulitis (sell-u-lie-tus), or skin infection.

What are the long-term effects of the infection?
Repeated infections can lead to scarring of the eyelid. The eyelashes may also grow in an unnatural direction.

What are the risks to others?
There are no risks to others from styes.

What are the treatments for the infection?
Styes usually respond well to hot compresses. If the compresses do not give relief within 24 hours, then topical antibiotics may be needed. The use of topical corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, is rarely recommended.

Sometimes the infection spreads to the eyelid or the lymph nodes in front of the ear. If either condition occurs, then oral antibiotics, such as dicloxacillin or cephalexin, may be needed. Rarely, when a large stye does not respond to treatment, it may be necessary to see a doctor to drain the infection through a small incision. The eyelash area should be avoided to protect the roots of the eyelashes.

Author: William Stevens, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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