Styes are localized skin infections occurring along the edge of the eyelids. Most styes begin with a blocked oil gland that traps bacteria under the skin. Styes are painful but not usually dangerous, while some complex and untreated growths may threaten the eye itself. A sty is not an emergency unless it’s accompanied by a high fever, obstructs your ability to see, or is bleeding or discharging.
Most styes appear similar to pimples because they are related in many ways. As the bacteria grows under the skin and your body fights the infection to produce pus, the growth swells and usually develops a visible white head.
The swelling puts pressure on the sensitive skin around the eyelids, resulting in pain, tenderness, and even itchiness. The sty itself will likely appear bright red or pink. It may appear on the inside of the eyelid and only cause swelling and redness through the lid.
The pressure and pain is immediately reduced by draining the sty, but this should be done by a medical professional. It’s very easy to damage the eye or cause a more serious infection by trying to lance or pop a sty on your own.
A doctor will determine if the infection is severe enough to warrant antibiotics as well. Most styes go away within a few days without any treatment, but styes that last longer than a week deserve a professional’s opinion. Regular outbreaks of styes are usually easy to prevent by following hygiene practices like washing around the eyes at least once a day specifically to remove oils.