Small but quite annoying: a stye on the eyelid.
Photo: iStock | JulieanneBirch
If the eyelid is suddenly swollen, a so-called stye (hordeolum) on the eye can be the cause. The inflammation on the eyelid is usually harmless, but annoying. You ask yourself: What can you do about a barleycorn? These simple tips will get rid of styes in no time.
The blister on the edge of the eyelid looks so small and inconspicuous, but feels huge and creates an uncomfortable feeling of pressure and a foreign body in the eye. It is a purulent inflammation of the eyelid. Typically, the eyelid is red, swollen and sensitive to pressure. A stye (technically: hordeolum) is usually triggered by an infection with bacteria, mostly staphylococci, which have got into the eyes, for example, through unwashed hands. Both the sebum and sweat glands of the eyelid become inflamed and pus collects. This has the characteristic shape of a yellow knot and is therefore called barley grain. A stye often occurs together with acne or impure skin. Poor hygiene when using contact lenses or putting on make-up is also one of the possible causes.
Stye vs. chalazion
A stye should not be confused with a hailstone (medical chalazion), which is significantly larger (the size of a pea) and movable. A chalazion is also non-infectious and does not cause pain. In principle, it consists of encapsulated cellular waste from an infection, such as a stye, which has not completely healed and usually has to be surgically removed.
Important: Even if it’s tempting – don’t express it! This allows new bacteria to enter the inflammation and make it worse. Since the cause of a stye is bacteria, squeezing and the like can make the whole thing even worse. It could come to a smear infection, so that the other eye is also affected. and we want to avoid that at all costs. So it’s hands off!
In general, it means having patience and waiting. As a rule, the stye empties itself and heals. Medical help is usually not necessary. Disinfecting, non-prescription eye drops and ointments, for example with the active ingredient bibrocathol, can help get the bacteria under control. Ointments can cloud the view a bit because they leave a film on the cornea – they are therefore suitable before going to bed. Eye drops can also provide relief during the day.
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The pathogens responsible for the stye are contagious! It is therefore extremely important to wash your hands regularly – especially before and after touching your eyes. Otherwise the inflammation spreads quickly and may also affect the other eye. For other people, however, the risk of infection is low. You should pay attention to clean towels and wash your hands frequently. Anyone who wears contact lenses should be particularly hygienic when inserting and removing them.
If you don’t want to use ointments or drops, you can also use home remedies.
Red light lamp: irradiate the stye several times a day with dry heat. To do this, sit in front of the red light lamp with your eyes closed for five to ten minutes a day. The heat can cause the stye to open faster and thus heal faster.
Quark compresses: spread quark on a linen cloth and place the pad on the closed eyelid for ten minutes. Quark is considered a proven natural remedy for inflammation.
Black tea: Put a tea bag in boiling water and let it cool down. Squeeze out and place on the closed eyelid for about 10 minutes. The tannins in tea can promote healing.
Eyebright infusion: Prepare a tea from eyebright herb (available in health food stores or pharmacies), let it cool and dab the eyelid with it.
Pad with fenugreek seeds: Make a tea of fenugreek, let it cool and soak it on a linen cloth and put it on the closed eyelid. The active ingredients in fenugreek seeds are said to draw fluid out of the tissue and thus dry out the barley grain.
A stye can not only be painful, but also look unsightly. Many therefore ask themselves: how long does it take for the stye to go away? A stye is usually harmless and will heal on its own. However, if it does not go away on its own after about a week or feels hardened, it is advisable to have the inflammation treated by an ophthalmologist. Expert advice is also required if there is a general feeling of illness, fever, headache or swollen lymph nodes.
If you suffer from eye abscesses more often, it is worth talking to your doctor about it, because it can be a sign of a weakened immune system or a symptom of diabetes mellitus. In any case, this should be clarified.
A weakened immune system is a risk factor and favors the development of styes. Therefore, all preventive measures that strengthen the immune system are advisable. In addition to a healthy and balanced diet, this also includes exercise and fitness as well as sufficient sleep, intelligent stress management and avoiding nicotine and alcohol. If you exercise regularly in the fresh air and plan workouts into your everyday life, you can minimize the risk of annoying eye infections.
On the other hand, proper hygiene and care of the eyes is important. Since barley grains are caused by bacteria, it is advisable to wash your hands frequently. Bacteria often adhere to handles or are transferred with the handshake. If you then touch your eyes with unwashed hands, you risk a stye. And caution is also required when removing make-up: It is better to use gentle, pH-neutral washing lotions that do not irritate the eyes too much. Drafts and eye-irritating substances such as cigarette smoke should also be avoided if possible.
Those who suffer from an acute stye should rather avoid contact lenses. When the stye is on the outside of the lid and not in contact with the lens. the lenses could continue to be worn – but it is advisable to protect your eyes and put on your glasses as a visual aid during this time. In addition, the lenses must be cleaned thoroughly if you put them back in after they have healed, so that no new bacteria can get into the eye.
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