Sties: no crying matter

by Dr. Christopher Singh

I recently had a driver come into my clinic complaining of pain in his upper eyelid. During the examination I noticed a small red lump on the inside of his eyelid.

As it turns out, he had developed a sty or a hordeolum. Sties are a very common condition within the population. It is safe to say that most of us will experience a sty a few times during our lifetime.

There are two categories of sties: internal and external. Internal sties form on the inner lining of the eyelids while external sties form on the outside.

Other than their location, the two types of sties tend to cause the same symptoms.

The symptoms associated with sties occur rapidly and generally only last from seven to 10 days without treatment.
The most common symptoms include a red lump on the eyelid which looks similar in appearance to a pimple, eyelid pain/swelling and tearing of the eyes.

Sties are caused by an infection of the sebaceous glands at the base of the eyelashes.

Poor hygiene that exposes your eyelids to bacteria is by far the most common cause. Touching or rubbing your eyes with soiled or dirty hands can transfer bacteria to your eyelids.

Contact lens use is also associated with sties. Changing your contact lenses without properly washing your hands can lead to sties. Similarly, failing to thoroughly clean and disinfect contact lenses can lead to the development of sties. Finally, improper use of make-up may increase your risk as well.

The majority of sties are merely a harmless nuisance.

However, it is important to seek medical attention if the sty does not resolve within a week’s time or there is excessive swelling and redness of the eye or surround cheek area.

Your doctor will diagnose a sty by performing a detailed physical examination and testing for bacteria. By identifying what type of bacteria is present, your doctor will be able to better recommend a treatment.

In most cases, sties will typically resolve by themselves with no medical treatment. However, in persistent cases, your doctor may recommend antibiotic eye drops or even surgery. Surgery to treat a sty usually involves lancing the sty in order to relieve the pressure and pain.

There are a few home remedies that you can perform to help speed up your recovery.

First of all, avoid touching or squeezing the sty.

Secondly, placing a warm washcloth over your closed eye may help to relieve pain as well as encourage the sty to drain on its own. Finally, avoid wearing contact lenses and make-up until the sty has fully healed.

Preventing sties is really quite simple. The key is to avoid introducing bacteria into the eye. By washing your hands with soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer several times each day, you will greatly reduce your chances of developing a sty.

Also, keeping your contact lenses clean and well disinfected is very important. Lastly, wear proper eye protection when around hazardous or toxic substances. Until next month, drive safely.

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