Stye, also known as hordeolum, is an infection of the eyelid. This medical condition occurs on the edge of the eyelid, especially in an oil-secreting gland found close to the root of an eyelash. This medical condition is basically caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria, which usually infect more than one gland in the eyelid. While the bacteria inhabit the skin innocuously, it may cause infection in places where the skin is broken or scratched. Usually, when an individual touches the mucus from the nose and subsequently rubs the eyes with the same hand, Staphylococcal bacteria move to the eyelid. It may be noted that another medical condition known as chalazion is a more persistent, but less irritating bump that occurs in the same region of the eyes.
In the beginning, when a stye starts emerging, it looks like a red, swollen and sensitive area along the periphery of an eyelid. As pus forms inside the stye, the reddened area may expand into a blister filled with fluid having a minute, but visible yellowish spot in the middle. In such cases, the affected eye is likely to water. Finally, the blister opens or bursts and drains out the fluid initiating the healing process.
Since having a bump in the line of an individual's eyesight is generally irritating, when children develop stye, they may be tempted to scratch or rub the stye. However, care should be taken that the stye is not squeezed or punctured. If this happens, it will only help the infection to worsen. Generally, a stye should start improving in two to three days since its appearance. However, a chalazion may endure for many weeks in the same condition - neither improving, nor worsening.
While styes are generally red, sensitive and painful, no harm is caused to the eye or eyelids owing to this medical condition. As aforementioned, generally majority of the styes heal within a couple of days even without any treatment. Nevertheless, if due care and precautions are not taken, the infection from one stye can occasionally spread and result in the emergence of more styes either on the same eyelid or the other. When people develop this medical condition, hardly ever the entire eyelid becomes infected. However, when the styes spread or infect other areas, treatment using antibiotics may become necessary. There are a number of people who get several styes, while there are others who get merely a few or none at all.
Styes develop in a number of steps - some of which are described here:
At first, a sensitive, reddish and painful lump develops on the edge of an eyelid and gradually, the lump enlarges developing a white or yellowish top. When this happens, it denotes that pus has formed inside the stye - a condition known as ‘pointing'. This point may be next to the rim of the eyelid, close to the base of the eyelashes, or it may even be inside the eyelid. Even in some cases, the point may be on the exterior of the eyelid.
Generally, styes cause irritation to the eye making it water. People who develop this medical condition often have a feeling as if there is something inside the eye - for instance, something akin to an eyelash getting onto the eye's surface. The outer cover of the blister formed due to a stye may open or burst releasing the pus. On the other hand, when the immune system of the body is able to neutralize the infection, the swelling may gradually disappear even without bursting. When the entire pus drains out of the stye, the lump disappears very soon. Or else, it may take some time for the swelling to subside. Normally, a stye goes away within two to three days of this development.
Although styes do not harm the entire eyelid or the eye, they may often be painful and also very frustrating. Applying hot compresses on the affected area facilitates in easing the pain and sometimes, also helps to eliminate the infection. Interestingly, for several centuries, people were of the view that applying hot compresses on styes actually helped to get rid of infections.
It may be mentioned here that a hot compress is a small piece of cloth or cotton balls that are heated in very hot water. The compress should be as hot as the person can tolerate at ease, but not so hot to burn the skin of the person. Therefore, it is advisable that the person who has developed a stye himself applies hot compress on it, as it will help him/ her to gauge the amount of heat they are able to endure and also eliminate the risks of burning the skin in the region of the eye. To take a hot compress, place the hot, wet material on the eyelid for quite some time, till it cools down. When the first compress cools down, replace it with another hot compress. Continue doing this several times every day till the stye persists. In addition, you may take any paracetamol tablet to get relief from the pain caused by the stye.
Normally, a stye goes away within two to three days of its emergence and one does not require any treatment. However, occasionally people may require some treatment and antibiotic lotions are generally used to heal the condition. In addition, there may also be times when individuals who have developed a stye may need to take oral antibiotics. There may be some rare cases when a doctor is required to open up the swelling or lump of the stye. However, this is required when a stye does not heal by itself even after several days. In the event of the lump still causing pain and it remains hot even after few days of its emergence, you should visit a doctor for an eye check-up.
Do not squeeze a stye
People who have a stye ought to adopt certain precautions. For instance, though the stye may cause irritation and prompt them to scratch the area, one should be careful never to squeeze the stye to release the pus forcibly. In the event of the stye still not mature enough to burst, squeezing it is likely to bring out some infected pus that may again infect the tissue adjacent to the stye resulting in further infection and spreading the problem to newer areas.
Preventing spread of infection
People who already have a stye may initiate some measures to prevent the infection from spreading further. Here are a few suggestions regarding what one ought to do to stop a stye from infecting newer areas and developing more styes:
When you have developed this medical condition, it is advisable not to touch, rub or squeeze the stye. In addition, if you are applying hot compresses on your eyelid, ensure that you discard the used compresses in a proper manner so that no other person is able to handle it. Preferably, you should dump the used compresses in a rubbish bin. Last, but not the least important, every time you use a hot compress, wash your hands thoroughly. In fact, people having stye ought to wash their hands very often to ensure that they are not infecting other parts of their body, especially other areas close to the eyes.
Blocked sebaceous gland
It may be note that the skin of the humans is covered with an oily substance known as sebum, which lubricates the skin as well as keeps it water proof. Sebum is produced by the sebaceous glands located just beneath the surface of our skin. Sometimes, dirt and impurities on the skin block the pores of the sebaceous glands opening on the skin's surface. In case a sebaceous gland in the eyelid is blocked, it may resemble a stye. While the lump is filled with sebum and not pus, the development is neither reddish in appearance, nor painful. In most cases, blocked or congested sebaceous glands go without being treated. However, they need to be cut open if the lump formed owing to accumulation of sebum is irritating to the eye.
Things to remember
Here are a few things that you need to remember if you have developed a stye. First, a stye is an infection on the edge of an eyelid, precisely at the base of an eyelash or the follicle, and is caused by the Staphylococcal bacteria. It is important to bear in mind that although a stye may cause irritation and tempt one to rub/ scratch the affected area, never squeeze or rub the stye for it may result in the infection to spread to new areas and give rise to more styes. If you have a stye, you may treat it by applying hot compresses, using antibiotic lotions and taking antibiotics orally. In acute, but rare cases, it may require a surgery to open the pus-filled lump to drain out the pus.
Supplements and herbs
While the best way to treat a stye and get relief from the pain is by using hot compresses, some herbs and supplements are also known to be effective in treating styes. If you are using a warm herbal compress, boil one teaspoon of herb in one pint of water for approximately 10 minutes. Subsequently, cool the infusion to a reasonable warm temperature and soak a clean piece of cloth or cotton balls in it. Apply this compress wet and warm to the stye for around 10 minutes or till it cools down. Use a reasonably hot compress that you can tolerate comfortably and apply this for four to six times every day.
As far as the specific use of herbs is concerned, you may use eyebright, goldenseal or Oregon grape root. Using the herb eyebright in a hot compress helps to ease the redness as well as the swelling of the eye and also helps to clean any eye infection. Hot compresses with Oregon grape root are a source of berberine - a very strong natural antibiotic. On the other hand, goldenseal possesses anti-bacterial properties and is also an excellent source of berberine.
You may also give a combined dosage of Echinacea and goldenseal orally with a view to sustain the immune system of your child as well as help clear any infection. While Echinacea possesses anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, goldenseal is anti-bacterial and also helps to comfort the mucus membranes. You may give the combined dose of these two herbs to your child thrice every day for about one week.