Styes form because a gland in your eye is clogged. They’re too small to see, but you have lots of little glands in your eyelid. They make a special oil that mixes with your tears to keep your eyes wet even when you’re not crying.
Sometimes old oil, skin cells, and dead germs get into a gland and clog it up so the oil can’t get out. That makes the gland get bigger and bigger. Ouch! That’s when you’ll feel a stye and see it, too.
What You Should Do About a Stye
If you think you have a stye, tell a parent or the adult who’s caring for you. A stye is usually a minor problem that can be treated. A parent can call your doctor to see if you should come in for a visit. Or the doctor might just give your parent some advice over the phone.
Often, a doctor will recommend a nice warm washcloth. Warmth will help unclog the gland and get the gunk to drain out. Ask a grownup to get it to the right temperature if you’re not sure (you don’t want to use hot water). And wring it out so it’s not too drippy.
Find a comfy place to relax and put the warm washcloth over your eye. Do this a few times a day. If the washcloth gets cool, you can warm it back up with warm water.
Sometimes, your doctor might recommend watered-down baby soap as a gentle cleanser for your eye. You don’t want to put any old soap in your eyes because it will burn!
You’ll need to see a doctor if your stye doesn’t get better or if it gets worse. Your doctor might give you a medicated cream or other medicine to take.
How to Prevent Styes?
To prevent styes, don’t touch your eyes. That’s how germs get in there. Washing your hands regularly is a good idea, too.
Some kids get styes a lot. It might have something to do with the kind of skin they have. If that sounds like you, your doctor will have ideas on how to treat and prevent them.
Reviewed by: Jonathan H. Salvin, MD
Date reviewed: April 2012