What to Do When You Spot an Eye Stye

It’s happened to everyone at one time or another: You wake up with a sore bump around your eyelid. What do you do? Michelle Ariss, MD, ProMedica Physicians Eye Care, talked with ProMedica Health Correspondent Chrys Peterson about eye styes and blepharitis. Here’s why it happens, how to prevent it and how to treat it.

Chris Peterson: What is blepharitis?

Dr. Ariss: Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid margin. Sometimes you don’t really know it’s there unless your eyelid is red and inflamed. Styes and bumps on the lid are kind of all in the same family.

They can be really painful. Can they be dangerous to your eyesight?

Not necessarily, but you can have an infection with it. Those are the ones that we worry about. It’s something called cellulitis of the eyelid, which can stem from some, but not all, styes. So we tell parents to look out if anything is getting worse to let us know. But sometimes little bumps on the eyelid can linger.

What can I do if I wake up in the morning and see that I have this bump?

We recommend warm compresses first and foremost. Our eyelid has many oil glands in it, and these bumps are clogged oil glands. What happens is instead of having an oil consistency that we want from the glands, it’s more of a buttery consistency. We want that butter to get back to oil so it gets out of those glands. So as soon as you feel a little bit of discomfort on the eyelid, maybe something coming on, we recommend warm compresses.

If it doesn’t go away over time, it is important to see a doctor?

Yes, it’s not a bad idea at all to go in and see your eye doctor. Sometimes we can recommend ointments. In some cases that are chronic, if a patient wants it removed we can actually surgically drain them. In children, unfortunately, it requires that we put them to sleep. But adults have them as well and if it’s chronic and lingering and frustrating, those can be drained in the office setting while a patient is awake.

Does blepharitis lead to a stye or are they two totally different things?

It can, yes. Sometimes you can just get the clogged gland by itself. But blepharitis, if you think of dandruff, it’s kind of the same concept in your lashes. You get debris in the lashes. We see it a lot with the microscope but we don’t see it obviously with the naked eye, unless you have a lot of scaled skin or things like that along the lid margin. What I always recommend: Shampoo your hair, scrub your lashes, especially women with eyeliner. I sometimes use a Q-tip to really get in there to try to scrub that line a little bit because all those things can build up and cause inflammation of the eyelid margin.

Can makeup make it worse?

Yes, the problem with women, is that all our products say avoid the eye area. So if you’re trying to wash your face, but then you’re avoiding the eye area, how do you really get it clean? Pre-soaked lid scrubs can help, or eye makeup remover. Like I said, I sometimes will use a little Q-tip after I’m done washing my face. An easy one, like I said is to shampoo your hair and scrub your lashes, things like that to try to keep that lid margin clean. And sometimes, no matter what we do, we still get a bump here and there and you just have to use that warm compress.


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