Styes are common and should clear up on their own within a week or 2. They're rarely a sign of anything serious, but may be painful until they heal.

Check if you have a stye

A stye is a small, painful lump on or inside the eyelid or around the eye.
The skin around the stye may be swollen and red and the stye may be filled with yellow pus.  The readness may be harder to see on brown and black skin.
Your eye may be red and watery but your vision should not be affected.
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's 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 make-up 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 or rosacea.

You can help avoid styes by keeping your eyes clean.


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


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

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 05/11/2021 09:33:05