A stye is a red, often painful lump that develops on the eyelid. Though uncomfortable, styes aren't usually cause for concern and typically resolve on their own. A stye occurs when an eyelash follicle or tear gland becomes blocked, causing inflammation and infection. A number of habits and conditions can lead to a stye.

Touching the Eye

Repeatedly touching or rubbing the eye is one of the most common causes of a stye. This is particularly true if someone is touching their eye with unwashed hands: the bacteria on their hands is transferred to the gland or follicle. If you need to rub your eyes, always first clean your hands thoroughly. Proper treatment of allergies, too, can reduce the need to rub the eyes.

business woman at computer removing glasses to rub her eyes


Sleeping in Contact Lenses

Sleeping in contact lenses is another common cause of a stye. Failing to remove lenses at the end of the day provides a moist environment perfect for bacteria growth. Putting in contacts with unwashed hands or without disinfecting the lenses can also lead to styes. Properly storing and cleaning contacts is vital to avoiding various eye infections and issues.

young woman removing her contact lens


Sleeping in Eye Makeup

Like contact lenses, leaving eye makeup on overnight can lead to a stye. Makeup not only attracts bacteria but can plug eyelash follicles and glands on the eyelid. Always wash your face well before going to bed and use a gentle cleanser to remove any makeup that will not come off with water alone.

woman cleaning off her eye makeup before bed


Using Old Eye Makeup

Eye makeup should be thrown out every six months. Makeup is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, which can begin to accumulate over time. Ensure you are storing your makeup in the ideal conditions recommended by the manufacturer and disposing of it at the appropriate intervals.

a palette of old, used eye makeup



Spending time in a pool or hot tub may lead to infection of the follicles or glands from chlorine-resistant bacteria. Swimming without afterward rinsing the eyes allows this bacteria to remain in the moist environment it needs to grow. In addition to rinsing, it is a good idea to always wear goggles when swimming.

man in swimming pool with his eyes open underwater



Exercising can also lead to the development of a stye. Following activity, sweat and oil may remain on the eyelids and plug the follicles and glands. This, in turn, can lead to bacteria growth and infection. The eyes should be rinsed following any exercise or activity causing sweat to avoid this risk.

side profile of a woman's face, sweating for exercise



Blepharitis is a chronic condition leading to inflammation, redness, watering, and itching of the eyes. People with blepharitis are at a higher risk of developing eyelid infections and styes. Rinsing the eyes and using warm compresses to reduce inflammation is often enough to reduce these secondary issues, though some people require medication.

diagnosis concept eye chart blepharitis



Rosacea is a skin condition that increases a person’s risk of developing a stye. Rosacea is characterized by broken blood vessels and pus-filled bumps on the skin. Rosacea of the eye leads to blocked oil glands on the eyelids, which can cause a stye. Proper care and treatment of rosacea can help to reduce the risk of this and other complications.

close up of woman with rosacea on her eyelid



Having diabetes is a risk factor for developing styes. Uncontrolled diabetes is caused by unusually high blood sugar, which can also lead to the suppression of the immune system. This leaves a person at a higher risk for infections, including those of the eyelid follicles and tear glands. Controlling diabetes is essential in managing a number of complications of the disease.

a man checking his blood sugar levels with device


Symptoms of a Stye

The most telltale sign of a stye is a tender, red bump on the eyelid, similar in appearance to a boil or pimple. Styes often cause pain and swelling of the eyelid and tearing of the eye.

close up of little girl with stye on her lower eyelid


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