Styes are common and should clear up on their own within a week or two. They’re rarely a sign of anything serious but may be painful until they heal.

Check if you have a stye

A stye usually only affects one eye but it’s possible to have more than one at a time. It’s probably not a stye if:

  • there is no lump - if your eye or eyelid is swollen, red and watery it’s more likely to be conjunctivitis or blepharitis
  • the lump is hard but not very painful - it’s more likely to be a chalazion

How you can treat a stye yourself

To reduce swelling and help the stye heal:

  1. Soak a clean flannel in warm water
  2. Hold it against your eye for 5 to 10 minutes
  3. Repeat this 3 or 4 times a day

To relieve the pain, take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Don’t give aspirin to children under 16.

Avoid wearing contact lenses and eye makeup until the stye has burst and healed.

Don’t try to burst a stye or remove an eyelash yourself. This can spread the infection.

See a GP if your stye:

  • is very painful or swollen
  • doesn’t get better within a few weeks
  • affects your vision

Treatment from a GP

Your GP may:

  • burst the stye with a thin, sterilised needle
  • remove the eyelash closest to the stye
  • refer you to an eye specialist in hospital

You can’t always prevent a stye

Styes are often caused by bacteria infecting an eyelash follicle or eyelid gland. You’re also more likely to get a stye if you have long-term blepharitis.

You can help avoid styes by keeping your eyes clean.


  • wash your face and remove eye makeup before bed
  • replace your eye makeup every 6 months
  • keep your eyelids and eyelashes clean - especially if you have blepharitis


  • share towels or flannels with someone who has a stye
  • rub your eyes if you haven’t recently washed your hands
  • put contact lenses in before washing your hands

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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