A stye, also known as a hordeolum, is an acute inflammation of the Zeis’s glands of the eye due to a bacterial infection.  


The Glands of Zeis are one of the many sebaceous glands of the eyelids. They are attached to hair follicles in the eyelid. Their function is to produce sebum, an oily and waxy substance, which lubricates the eyelashes and skin. When these glands become infected, usually by the bacteria staphylococcus aureus, an acute pus-filled (suppurative) inflammation can develop. This inflammation leads to the formation of an abscess (a pus-filled bump). Styes are usually seen in young people and elderly debilitated individuals but they can also occur in anyone regardless of age.

Risk factors

  • Skin diseases like rosacea
  • Poor eyelid hygiene
  • Excess sebum production (seborrhoea)


Styes present as a painful bump or swelling on the eyelid, usually near the margin of the eyelid (near the base of the eyelashes). The surrounding area may also be swollen and red. They can be on the upper or lower eyelid. There may be discharge or crusting present.


Styes are typically treated with lid hygiene. This involves placing a warm compress over the eye for 10-15 minutes then washing the inflamed area with an eyelid cleanser or baby shampoo.

Other treatments include:

  • Topical antibiotics (eyedrops and ointment) to control the infection. These may be given if there is draining or crusting to control the infection
  • Pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate pain and inflammation.
  • Evacuation of the pus through incision or pulling on the involved eyelash. This is done by a doctor.  

Styes may also self-resolve in a few days or weeks, even without treatment.

It’s probably not a stye if there’s no lump. If there is a hard lump is which is not painful, it may be a chalazion.


Jogi, R. (2016). The Lids. In Basic ophthalmology. Jaypee Brothers.

James, B., & Bron, A. (2011). The eyelids. In Ophthalmology Lecture Notes (11th ed., p. 82). Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.