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Definition :
A sty (hordeolum) is a red, painful lump on the edge or inside of your eyelid that may look like a boil or a pimple. Usually a sty is filled with pus. As it swells in size, the sty may make it difficult for you to see clearly because you can't fully open your eye.

More than one sty can occur at a time, leading to a generalized inflammation of your eyelid — a condition known as blepharitis. Fortunately, most sties disappear in just a few days. In the meantime, you can sometimes relieve the pain or discomfort of a sty with simple self-care treatments.

Causes :
The cause of a sty is a bacterial infection, usually staphylococcus. Usually the bacterial infection develops near the root (follicle) of an eyelash. You may have more than one sty at a time or several in succession.

Risk Factor :
Sties aren't very contagious. To minimize any risk of spreading this infection, however, practice good hand-washing techniques.

When to seek medical advice :
Most sties are harmless to your eye and don't affect your ability to see clearly. Still, you may want to see your doctor if a sty causes one of the following problems :

  • Interferes with your vision
  • Appears frequently with successive infections
  • Doesn't disappear on its own
  • Doesn't respond to self-care

Symptoms :
Eventually most sties fill with pus and then rupture. The release of pus relieves one major symptom of sties — pain. Usually the sty then disappears. But before this happens, a sty typically exhibits the following signs and Symptoms:

  • A red lump similar to a boil or a pimple
  • Swelling on your eyelid
  • Light sensitivity
  • A scratchy sensation in your eye
  • Tearing

Diagnosis :
If the signs and symptoms of a sty persist or if you've had successive infections, your doctor may want to exclude other possible causes. Some conditions exist that are similar to a sty, but require different treatment. For instance a chalazion — a blockage in one of the small glands in the eyelid — can produce a swelling similar to that of a sty.

If your doctor confirms you have a sty, he or she can prescribe treatment or recommend ways to relieve your pain or discomfort. If a sty is ruled out, your doctor may refer you to an ophthalmologist for further examination and treatment. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who can provide comprehensive eye and vision care.

If your doctor confirms that you have a sty, he or she may prescribe a topical antibiotic cream to apply to your eyelid. To treat a pus-filled sty that won't rupture or burst on its own, your doctor or ophthalmologist may choose to lance and drain the sty to relieve pain and pressure. Usually you won't need oral antibiotics unless you have a generalized infection of your eyelid.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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