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 may be red, swollen and filled with yellow pus like a pimple.
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.

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
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The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 08/12/2020 14:22:48