A few weeks ago I attended a social luncheon and noticed a friend had a stye on the upper left corner of her right eye. Her stye probably went unnoticed by everyone there.
But ever since my own years-long battles with Meibomian gland dysfunction and chronic Dry Eye I’ve become hyper-aware of the eyes around me. So, now I notice red eyes, inflamed eyelids, what might be anterior blepharitis, scaly skin around the eyes, dandruff in eyebrows, and yes, styes.
A few days after the luncheon I woke up with a small bump smack inside the middle of my left lower eyelid. I tried not to panic. Was it a stye, I wondered?
Breathe and Think!
“Breathe and think,” I reminded myself. I had to think!
Did I do anything out of the ordinary, like touch my eyes without washing my hands first?
Did something blow into my eyes?
A good possibility.
Should I call my ophthalmologist?
It’s Saturday morning. Oh no!
And with that thought my mind panicked and bounced even faster from thought to thought.
Maybe I should e-mail him. Is this stye a setback? Will it require another intraductal probing of the Meibomian glands in that lid? Maybe the gland is atrophied…
“Stop it,” I commanded myself. “Breathe and think!”
So I stopped, took a breath, and called a friend who happens to be a very experienced Dry Eye patient. Then I did some research on styes. This is what I learned.
A Stye in My Eye
First, a stye — sometimes spelled sty — is an infection localized to the eyelids, in glands at the base of the eyelashes or in the Meibomian glands. The infected gland swells and causes a bump. Styes can be painful, red, and tender. They’re usually caused by an overgrowth of staphylococcal bacteria and are contagious, so it’s best not to share towels or pillows with someone who has one.
How are they treated? Keeping eyelids clean is super important. First wash your hands then wash the lids with a mild cleanser. Applying warm compresses helps a lot. With those impeccably clean hands, roll up a clean wash cloth and run warm to hot water over a corner of it. Without applying pressure, hold the warm, wet corner of the wash cloth against the stye for at least five minutes. Some doctors recommend applying warm compresses from 10 to 15 minutes, three to four times a day.
Whatever you do, don’t pop a stye. Plus, avoid eye makeup for a while, at least until the stye goes away, and throw away any makeup that might be contaminated. Over-the-counter pain medications won’t speed up healing, but they might reduce the pain. And if the stye doesn’t heal within a few days, it’s best to see an eye doctor.
Ok, I was breathing again. No full-blown panic attack this time. All it took was a reminder to breath, a call to a good friend, some research, and a bit of common sense.
But in a week, if that stye isn’t gone, guess where I’ll be.
Susan Howell, Dry Eye Patient
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