Why You Shouldn’t Pop a Stye

Doing so can cause a severe infection, damage to your eyelid or even a corneal abrasion
person rubbing their eye

Oh my, you’ve got a stye.

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Regardless of how you got the stye — maybe you rubbed your eyes with dirty hands, used expired or contaminated cosmetics or shared eye makeup — you’re now left with a painful red bump on the edge of your eyelid.

“A stye forms when bacteria enter the oil glands in the eyelids. This leads to inflammation, as well as the formation of a painful lump,” explains family physician Matthew Goldman, MD. “Also known as a hordeolum, a stye is typically caused specifically by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.”

In addition to pain and discomfort, a stye can literally be an eyesore, making you want to do everything you can do to get rid of it.

So, should you pop a stye? While there are a variety of home remedies you can use to alleviate symptoms, like crusting along the eyelid — you should think twice before you attempt popping your stye.

Dr. Goldman explains why popping a stye isn’t such a good idea and what you should do instead.

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Can you pop a stye?

Don’t give in to your temptation to pop a stye, urges Dr. Goldman.

“It’s best to avoid squeezing and/or attempting to pop a stye on your own due to potential risks and complications,” he says.

And while it may not be the answer you were hoping for, if you sit tight and try other home remedies, like applying a warm compress, you’ll more than likely see results soon.

“A stye will usually resolve within one to two weeks with proper home care,” says Dr. Goldman. “The exact amount of time for healing can vary depending on the severity of the stye and the individual.” 

Potential risks of popping a stye

Styes are very common, affecting all races, sexes and ages — though adults are more prone to blockage.

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But what happens if you do pop a stye? Though it may be tempting to pop a stye, doing so comes with potential risks like:

  • Severe infection.
  • Damage to your eyelid like pigmentation or scarring.
  • A corneal abrasion.

You also want to refrain from rubbing or touching your eyelid and avoid wearing makeup or contact lenses until the stye has gone away.

What to do instead

Try the following remedies to alleviate symptoms and encourage healing instead of attempting to squeeze and/or pop a stye: 

  • Use a clean, warm compress on the affected eyelid for at least 10 to 15 minutes several times a day. This will help reduce pain and promote drainage of the stye. 
  • Use a mild soap or baby shampoo diluted in warm water to clean your eyelids gently with a clean cotton swab or washcloth. 
  • Avoid using contact lenses or eye makeup until the stye has healed. 
  • Before touching your eyes or applying any remedies, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. 

If a stye persists and forms a noninfectious lump caused by blockage and inflammation of an oil gland called a chalazion, surgical drainage may be considered. But surgery is rarely necessary. 

“Consider seeing a healthcare provider if a stye doesn’t improve within one to two weeks with home remedies, becomes extremely painful or affects your vision, is a recurrent issue and/or you develop fever or experience any concerning symptoms,” advises Dr. Goldman.

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