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What Triggers an Eye Stye?

July 15 2023

Have you ever experienced a small, painful bump near the edge of your eyelid? If so, you may have had an eye stye. Eye styes, although relatively common, can be bothersome and uncomfortable. Understanding the causes of eye styes is essential for prevention and effective management. 

Read on as an optometrist Lake Stevens, WA talks about eye styes and what causes them.

Understanding Eye Styes

Before exploring the causes, let’s take a moment to understand what an eye stye is. An eye stye, also known as a hordeolum, is a small, red, painful lump that forms on or inside the eyelid. It occurs when the oil glands or hair follicles in the eyelid become infected or blocked. Common symptoms of an eye stye include redness, swelling, tenderness, and sometimes a small pus-filled head.

Causes of Eye Styes

Bacterial Infection

One of the primary causes of eye styes is a bacterial infection. Harmful bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, can find their way into the oil glands or hair follicles of the eyelids, leading to inflammation and the formation of a stye. Practicing good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly and avoiding touching your eyes, can significantly reduce the risk of bacterial infections.

Blockage of Oil Glands

Another common cause of eye styes is the blockage of oil glands in the eyelids. The oil glands produce a substance called sebum, which helps lubricate the eyelids and prevent the evaporation of tears. When these glands become blocked, whether due to debris, dead skin cells, or thickened oils, it creates an environment conducive to stye formation. Factors that can contribute to blockage include poor eyelid hygiene, excessive use of cosmetics, and certain skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis.

Poor Eyelid Hygiene

Maintaining proper eyelid hygiene is crucial for preventing eye styes. Neglecting to keep the eyelids clean can allow dirt, bacteria, and other irritants to accumulate, increasing the risk of infections and styes. To maintain clean eyelids, gently wash them with a mild cleanser or baby shampoo diluted in warm water. Remember to remove any makeup before bed and avoid sharing eye makeup with others to minimize the risk of contamination.

Other Possible Causes

  • Contact with contaminated surfaces
  • Weakened immune system
  • Cosmetics and eye products
  • Eye makeup and hygiene
  • Rubbing or touching eyes
  • Allergic reactions
  • Eyelash mites
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stress and fatigue

Our Advice on What Triggers an Eye Stye in 2024

What is an eye stye, and what are its common symptoms?

An eye stye, or hordeolum, is a red, painful lump on the edge or inside of the eyelid caused by an infected or blocked oil gland or hair follicle. Common symptoms include tenderness, swelling, redness around the affected area, and often a tiny pus-filled center resembling a pimple. Some individuals may experience increased tear production or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye. Styes typically manifest on the eyelid’s surface but can also develop internally, causing discomfort and visual irritation.

What role does the blockage of oil glands play in eye stye formation?

The blockage of oil glands in the eyelids plays a crucial role in forming eye styes. These glands, responsible for secreting oils to lubricate the eye and eyelid, can become clogged with debris, dead skin cells, or thickened oil, preventing normal secretion. This blockage creates an ideal environment for bacteria to grow, leading to infection and style development. Such blockages are often exacerbated by factors like poor eyelid hygiene, excessive makeup use, or certain skin conditions, highlighting the importance of regular eyelid care.

How do cosmetics and eye products influence the risk of eye styes?

Cosmetics and eye products can significantly increase the risk of eye styles by contributing to the blockage of oil glands on the eyelids. Makeup, significantly when applied heavily or left on overnight, can accumulate and mix with natural oils, leading to clogged glands. Additionally, expired or contaminated cosmetics harbor bacteria that can infect the eyelid. The frequent use of eye products without proper removal and sharing makeup tools can also transfer bacteria, further elevating the risk of developing styes. Prioritizing eyelid hygiene and careful makeup use is essential for prevention.

What factors contribute to the blockage of oil glands in the eyelids?

Several factors contribute to the blockage of oil glands in the eyelids, leading to the development of eye styes. These include poor eyelid hygiene, where inadequate cleansing accumulates debris and bacteria. Excessive use of cosmetics can also clog glands, especially if not removed properly. Certain skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis can thicken oils, further obstructing glandular passages. Additionally, contact with contaminated surfaces, frequent frequent rubbing or touching of the eyes, and allergic reactions can exacerbate gland blockage. Understanding and addressing these factors through proper hygiene practices are crucial for preventing stye formation.

What other potential causes of eye styes are not directly related to hygiene or bacterial infection?

Other potential causes of eye styes not directly linked to hygiene or bacterial infection include contact with contaminated surfaces, which can introduce foreign particles or bacteria to the eye area. Weakened immune systems may also contribute, as they increase susceptibility to infections. Cosmetics and eye products pose a risk, particularly if they are expired or contaminated. Factors such as eyelash mites, poor nutrition, stress, and fatigue can weaken the body’s defenses and affect overall eye health, potentially predisposing individuals to stye formation. Understanding these diverse causes aids in implementing comprehensive preventive measures for eye styes.

If you have more questions or wish to schedule an eye exam, please feel free to call us, your local optometrist Lake Stevens, WA, anytime!

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Grandview Optometry


16616 Twin Lakes Ave
Marysville, WA 98271
(Inside Marysville/Smokey Point Costco)


Monday-Friday: 10:00am-6:30pm
Saturday:  9:30am-5:00pm
Sunday: Closed

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