Sties can appear overnight and give us a painful and unsightly issue to deal with in the morning. Sometimes you get some warning that a stye is on the way, as the area around your eye tingles or feels a little sore. Sties don’t look good – the bigger the stye the more distress is causes. People who have sties usually want to get rid of them and want to get rid of them fast!
Why do we get sties?
We have many small glands around the edge of our eye lids, they are called Glands of Zeis, Moll’s gland, or the meibomian gland. They produce the sebum that keeps our eyes healthy and moist. However, these glands can get blocked and so the gland fills up and becomes swollen. This what causes a stye.
The blockage can be caused by an infection. Several bacteria live on normal healthy skin – Staphylococcus aureus is one of the more common ones. Normally, an overgrowth of bacteria is kept in check by our bodies’ natural defenses, but when something affects those defenses, the bacteria take the opportunity to grow to very large numbers and cause a localised infection. The body responds with a process called inflammation and this is what causes the typical redness and swelling. This also explains why we often get sties when we are tired and stressed!
On the other hand, not all sties are caused by infections. People with a condition called blepharitis are especially prone to sties. This is like a dandruff condition of the eyelids and the sebum together with flaky skin readily blocks up the tiny openings of the glands. If you are getting repeated sties, an optician can diagnose if you have blepharitis and can tell you how to manage the condition to reduce the likelihood of sties developing.
Here are a few tell tale signs that a stye is on the way:
- Light sensitivity
- Feeling sore when blinking
- Redness of the eyelid
There are several different types of stye.
This type of stye occurs on the edge of the eyelid. It is a discrete swollen and red area with a white center – called a ‘head’. These sties tend to drain by themselves and clear up quickly.
Internal stye (chalazion)
This type of stye is located away from the edge of the lid and has a purple center. They last much longer and can become very hard. In some circumstances they need to be removed with a surgical procedure.
When a stye is on the way
Here are some early precautions that you can take when a stye is on the way:
- Do not try to squeeze it! You will just make it worse!
- Keep the are around your eyes scrupulously clean
- Avoid using make up and contact lenses
- Consult a doctor or optician before using any medication
Cure that stye – fast
Step 1 – warm water
Boil around a litre of water and allow it to cool until it is at skin temperature. Moisten a clean cloth and apply to the affected eye for 10 minutes like a poultice. As the water cools replace the cloth.
Step 2 – acacia
A handful of acacia leaves can be added to two cups of boiling water. Once the solution is cool, use it to moisten a clean cloth and apply to the affected eye. Many people find this more soothing that warm water alone.
Step 3 – parsley
Fresh parsley can act as an anti-inflammatory. Steep some leaves in a cup of boiling water and allow to cool. Then moisten a cloth with the solution and apply morning and night for around 10 minutes.
Step 4 – tomato
Apply fresh tomato slices to the affected area to relieve pain and inflammation.
Step 5 – Aloe Vera
The Aloe Vera plant is famous of its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Keep a plant on your window sill and when you get a stye, break open one of the leaves. Moisten a cotton wool bud with the clear liquid secreted by the plant and apply carefully to the stye.
Step 6 – cucumber
Cucumber is nature’s own astringent – a natural anti-inflammatory. Apply a slice to the affected eye to get instant reduction in redness and swelling.
Always see a doctor if your stye does not heal quickly.