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What are the risk factors for a sty (stye)?

The most common risk factor is sluggish outflow of the sebum from the meibomian glands, which is commonly seen in a chronic inflammatory condition called meibomian gland dysfunction (also commonly called meibomian gland disease, meibomitis, meibomianitis, or blepharitis).

Meibomian gland dysfunction is frequently associated with acne rosacea on the cheeks and nose but can also be seen alone.

Other risks include obstruction of the gland's opening by scar tissue following infections, burns, or trauma. Foreign substances such as makeup and dust can also clog the gland's opening if not properly washed away.

Are styes contagious?

Styes are not contagious.

What are sty (stye) symptoms and signs?

The symptoms of a sty are

  • foreign body sensation in the eye (particularly with blinking),
  • eye pressure, and
  • pain in the area of the bump, though often they are painless.

There may also be blurred vision if thick sebum or pus from within the sty spreads over the eye's surface.

If chronic meibomian gland dysfunction is present, dry eye symptoms are common. This is because the meibomian glands secrete an oil onto the surface of the eye to prevent the water layer of tears from evaporating too rapidly from the eye's surface between blinks. Therefore, poorly functioning meibomian glands can lead to dry eye.

Signs of a sty include

  • presence of a lump or bump (like a pimple) on the edge of the eyelid,
  • redness of the skin overlying the eyelid bump, and
  • swelling and puffy appearance of the eyelid.

If the sty is draining material from the gland's opening, there may be thick discharge or crusty material accumulating on the lids and lashes. In some cases, the skin overlying the sty will become thinned and the thick material within the sty (pus) may ooze out through a break in the skin. Watery tears can also be produced in response to irritation and pain.

Stys can be external, meaning the blocked gland protrudes outward and appears as a visible bump under the skin, or interior, in which the blocked gland protrudes behind or under the eyelid.

Reviewed on 10/16/2017
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