Most of us, and our kids, will eventually have some acute eye problems. Some of these are more serious — and more dangerous — than others. Let’s talk about styes — including what to do about them and when to really worry.
What causes a stye?
A stye is an abscess (pocket of infection) in the eyelid. It is the result of bacterial growth, typically within the glands of the eyelash follicles or the skin itself.
What are the symptoms of a stye?
The eyelid is swollen, red, and painful, and usually has a visible bump. There may be increased tearing/watery discharge from the eye, as well as some itching.
How is a stye diagnosed?
Just by appearance and symptoms. In other words, it’s what doctors call a “clinical diagnosis” — there is no specific test needed.
How is a stye treated?
Most styes will resolve on their own over several days. You can apply a warm (not hot) compress several times each day, which will help with the discomfort and may speed up the healing process. Often, the abscess will start to drain a whitish or blood-tinged fluid. After that, it will usually be gone in a day or two. There are over-the-counter “stye drops” that you can buy at your local pharmacy. These are likely safe and may help with symptoms — make sure to follow the directions on the packaging regarding minimum age, use, and storage if you choose to use them.
Does my child need to stay home from school?
Not necessarily. You might consider keeping a toddler home because it is hard to keep them from touching things. Most older children should be able to return to school with frequent hand-washing. Ask your pediatrician if you’re not sure.
When should I worry?
If your child develops a fever, says that their eyeball hurts or moving the eyeball (looking up/down or to the side) is painful, or the redness/tenderness spreads beyond the eyelid, they may have a more serious infection. Please talk to your pediatrician right away or go to the emergency department. If it hasn’t gone away in about a week, talk to your doctor about whether this was actually a stye and whether or not additional treatment might be needed.