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  • What are Styes?

    A stye is a small red bump that forms either on the outside or inside of the eyelid. It is often very painful, and may cause your eye to water. Styes most often appear individually, but multiple lumps will appear in some cases.   

    An external stye occurs where the eyelid meets the eyelash. The lump may fill with pus and appear yellow.

    An internal stye can be even more painful. It involves swelling on the inside of the eyelid.

  • What causes Styes?

    External styes can be caused by an infection of either an eyelash follicle or of the sebaceous or apocrine glands. Sebaceous glands are connected to each eyelash follicle. They secrete sebum, an oily lubricant which prevents each eyelash from becoming dry. Apocrine sweat glands exist below each eyelash follicle – they produce a fluid which keeps the eye moist.

    Internal styes most often occur due to an infection of a meibomian gland. These are glands at the rim of the eyelid. They produce a component of the tear film, a layer of fluid which prevents the eye from becoming dry. Otherwise, an internal stye can arise due to blepharitis.

  • What is Blepharitis?

    Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids characterised by painful or itchy eyes, or by crusty eyelashes.

    It can be caused either by infection or due to complications from other skin conditio

    You will likely be at an increased risk of experiencing styes if you suffer from blepharitis. 


  • Are Styes common?

    Yes – most people suffer from at least one at some point in their life.

  • How are Styes treated?

    Styes tend to heal on their own, and so further treatment is not usually recommended.

    An external stye will likely start to release pus after three or four days. You can hold a warm damp facecloth to your eye to let out pus and facilitate healing. Internal styes usually remain for slightly longer.

    Do not attempt to pop or remove a stye on your own. If your stye is especially painful or is not healing, see your doctor. They may advise that they drain it.

    Antibiotics are used only to treat some of the potential complications of styes, including cysts of the meibomian gland.

  • What is Conjunctivitis?

    Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane which lines the inside of the eyelids. It is most often caused by a bacterial infection, either as the principal infection or as a result of a cold or another viral illness. Other varieties are:

    • Infective conjunctivitis, resulting from a viral infection
    • Allergic conjunctivitis, due to a reaction to dust mites or pollen
    • Irritant conjunctivitis, due to irritation from substances including chlorinated water, soap or shampoo
  • How is Bacterial Conjunctivitis treated?

    You will likely not be required to take antibiotics for conjunctivitis unless it is especially severe or lasts for over two weeks. This is because the problem tends to go away on its own, and there is not a significant risk of further complications.

    There are a number of ways you can help with the healing process of bacterial conjunctivitis. Use cotton buds to ensure that your eyelids are kept clean, especially if you notice any discharge, and be careful not to touch your eyes with unclean hands. Lubricant eye drops can be purchased over the counter and can help with soreness or discomfort of the eyes.

    Contact lenses can cause irritation and can sometimes be a source of infection, so refrain from using them until your infection has fully healed. Make sure that you use new lenses and solution after you have healed from an infection.

  • What are Chloramphenicol and Fucithalmic eye drops?

    These are the two varieties of antibiotics you will be prescribed if your bacterial conjunctivitis is especially severe.

    Chloramphenicol is available from pharmacies without a prescription. It is a strong antibiotic (more so than Brolene) and so is not available in tablet form and is only used for certain types of infection.

    If your GP determines that chloramphenicol is unsuitable for you, they may prescribe fucithalmic eye drops. These are used less frequently, and so are sometimes better for the elderly, children and pregnant women.

    In each case, ensure that you follow the patient information leaflet and advice from your pharmacist carefully. Antibiotic eye drop treatments should last no longer than five days. Contact your GP if your symptoms do not improve after two days.

    Contact lenses should not be worn whilst using eye drops, as they may interfere with treatment and may also be damaged by the medicine.

    It is normal to feel a brief stinging feeling in the eye; this should stop after a few moments. Because eye drops may briefly impair your vision, you should avoid driving immediately after their use.

    Eye drops last for only 28 days after they are opened, due to the type of preservative used to keep the medicine sterile.

  • At what point should I see a doctor?

    If symptoms remain after two weeks, contact your doctor. You should also see your GP if you are suffering from intense pain or redness, distorted vision or sensitivity to light.

    Infective conjunctivitis can in some cases be a result of an STI like chlamydia, so your doctor might advise you to undergo an STI test.

  • Should I stay home from work or school if I have an Eye Infection?

    According to Public Health England (PHE), you or your child should stay home from school or work due to conjunctivitis only if it is particularly severe or painful.

  • How is Seasonal Conjunctivitis treated?

    There are a number of steps you can take at home to ease the symptoms of seasonal conjunctivitis or hay fever. These include applying a cool damp facecloth to your eyes, refraining from itching, refraining from wearing contact lenses, or avoiding exposure to the responsible allergen.

    Antihistamines quickly relieve symptoms by preventing the release of histamine, the chemical the body uses as a response to allergens. Antihistamine is available in eye drops (e.g. azelastine, emedastine, ketotifen, antazoline with xylometazoline) or in once-a-day tablets (e.g. cetirizine, fexofenadine, loratadine).

    Check with your GP that you are prescribed an appropriate antihistamine – some, for example, are unsuitable for children. Antihistamines can sometimes have a sedating effect, especially when mixed with alcohol.

Authored By:

A photo of  Leanne Sinclair

Leanne Sinclair


Published on: 29-05-2019

Last modified on: 29-05-2019

Leanne is a clinical pharmacist with years of experience working in pharmacy.

Reviewed By:

A photo of  Chris Newbury

Chris Newbury

BPharm IP

Reviewed on: 29-05-2019

Next review date: 29-05-2021

Chris is a vastly experienced clinical pharmacist and has been registered as an Independent Prescriber since 2014.

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