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How to get rid of a sty

Get rid of a sty quickly

A sty can really put a damper on your week. They’re an irritation to your eyes and can cause disruption to the most basic tasks. It’s even more annoying if you’re used to wearing contact lenses and have to switch back to glasses while it heals.

Even though sties typically clear up on their own, it’s good to know how to speed up the healing process, especially if one crops up at a really inconvenient time.

What is a sty?

A sty is a lump that appears on your eyelid around the lash line. It can occur on the upper or lower eyelid. Most of the time, it appears on the exterior of your eyelid, but they can occur on the inner area, too. They’re usually red and look similar to a pimple. Often, pus is present in the sty. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of a sty include:

  • Redness.
  • General swelling around the sty and the rest of the eyelid.
  • Pain in the eyelid around the site of the sty.
  • Increased tearing in the eye.

Sties usually clear up on their own within a week. If it takes longer to heal or if you experience swelling without any pain, you may have a chalazion. This is similar to a sty but may take longer to heal.

What causes sties?

Just like the rest of your skin, your eyelids contain oil glands. When one of these glands becomes infected with bacteria, a sty can occur. Staphylococcus is typically the bacterium that causes sties. 

Any activity that causes bacteria to come into contact with the oil glands around your eyelids can lead to a sty. This includes:

  • Touching your eyes without washing your hands.
  • Using old makeup.
  • Using contact lenses without washing them properly.
  • Leaving makeup such as mascara on while sleeping.

Some preexisting conditions such as blepharitis (frequent eyelid inflammation) can increase your risk of developing sties.

7 ways to get rid of a sty

1. Avoid cosmetics and contact lenses

Applying cosmetics to your eyelid while you have an ongoing sty will only cause further irritation to the area. It’s a good idea to avoid cosmetics such as makeup, eye cream and eye serum. Your mascara or eye cream could actually contain the bacteria that caused the sty in the first place. Avoiding the use of cosmetics means avoiding further sties cropping up around your lash line. 

Always be careful to remove eye makeup fully to help prevent sties. 

2. Apply a warm compress

Similar to a pimple elsewhere on your face, a sty can be filled with pus, and will generally erupt and drain before it starts to heal. While you should never try to “pop” a sty, a warm compress brings the pus closer to the surface, helps open up your pores and begins the draining and healing process more quickly.

A warm compress is as simple as running a clean face cloth under warm water, squeezing out the excess water and then holding the cloth against your eye for a few minutes at a time.

3. Massage the area gently

This is a particularly useful exercise right after a warm compress. Gently massage the area around the sty with clean fingertips. Don’t massage directly on the sty itself. Gentle movements can help to displace the pus and begin the draining process.

4. Clean your eyelid

Cleaning the eyelid and lash line ensures that any lingering bacteria won’t make its way into another oil gland and cause further sties. It also helps to keep the oil gland containing the existing sty from getting blocked up any further.

Make sure to use hypoallergenic, eye-friendly soap. Harsh soap may cause further irritation to your eyes and the sty area. You can also use cotton pads to avoid getting the soap in your eye.

5. Use a teabag

While there’s no medical evidence to confirm the efficacy of this common household recipe, many people swear by tea bag compresses to heal sties and other eye ailments. Black tea is said to work best for this home remedy. Simply steep a tea bag in hot water and set it to the side. Once it has cooled to a warm temperature, apply it to the outside of your eye as a warm compress.

6. Take OTC anti-inflammatory medication

Since the bacteria in your eyelid’s oil gland causes swelling, taking some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil can reduce redness and inflammation around your sty. 

7. Apply OTC sty ointment

You can also try an ointment designed to speed up the healing process for a sty. These ointments often contain mild antibiotic ingredients to help eliminate the bacteria causing the sty in the first place.

How to prevent sties from coming back

Get new eye cosmetics

Once a sty appears, it’s a good idea to replace any cosmetics or tools that come into contact with your eyes. This includes contact lenses, mascara, eyeliner and makeup brushes. The same goes for any eye creams or serums, especially any that come in jars. If you’ve touched your infected eye and put a finger back in the jar, you might cause a sty to recur the next time you use the product.

Wash your hands frequently

The bacteria that causes sties often comes from your hands. Be sure to wash your hands before applying makeup, contact lenses or any other activity where your hands come into contact with your eyes.

What you need to buy for sty treatment

Bruder Moist Heat Eye Compress

This microwaveable warm compress for the eye is easy to use. It can also be washed and reused, convenient for people who regularly get sties.

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Similasan Sty Eye Relief Drops

These eye drops contain only natural active ingredients. They’re particularly useful if you have severe symptoms since they quickly relieve the redness, swelling and excessive tearing that commonly accompany a sty. 

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Lauren Farrell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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