What Is A Stye? What Is Hordeolum?

A stye, also known as hordeolum, is a small collection of pus (abscess) on the eyelid. In most cases, the infection is caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. Often the lump is red and painful and looks like a boil or pimple. Although most styes form on the outside of the eyelid, some of them develop on the inside of the eyelid.

Spelling: Sty, stye, sties, styes - all are possible.

In the majority of cases, styes go away on their own without intervention within a week. External styes may turn yellow and release pus. Internal styes tend to be more painful.

Applying a warm compress gently against the stye helps it release pus more readily.

Sometimes a stye can recur.

The following can increase the risk of developing a stye:

  • Using cosmetics after their use-by dates
  • Not removing eye makeup when you go to bed
  • Not disinfecting your contact lenses before you put them in
  • Changing contact lenses without washing your hands thoroughly
According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary:

A hordeolum is "A suppurative inflammation of a gland of the eyelid."

What are the signs and symptoms of a stye (hordeolum)?

A symptom is something the patient feels and describes, such as a pain, while a sign is something other people, such as doctors or nurses may detect, such as an irregular heartbeat.

Patients have a swelling which can make the eye watery and red. The eyelid can become red too.

Styes very rarely affect both eyes simultaneously. The individual will generally have one stye in one eye. However, it is possible to have more than one stye in the same eye, or one in each eye at the same time.

There are two categories of stye:
  • External hordeolum - this stye emerges along the edge of the eyelid. It can become yellow, filled with pus, and painful when touched. It is also called an external stye.
  • Internal hordeolum - the swelling develops inside the eyelid. Generally, this type of stye is much more painful. It is also called an internal stye.
Patients may also experience burning in the eye, crusting of the eyelid margins, droopiness of the eyelis, itchiness on the eyeball, sensitivity to light, tearing, a feeling that something that should not be there is stuck to the eye, and discomfort when blinking.

What are the treatment options for a stye?

Most styes go away on their own without any treatment required. As soon as they rupture symptoms tend to improve rapidly. Doctors say you should not try to burst it yourself.

A warm compress held gently against the eye may help ease symptoms. Make sure the water is not too hot, especially if you are applying it to somebody else, such as a child. Hold the compress against the eye for between five and ten minutes - do this three or four times each day. Not only does the compress ease the discomfort, but it may also encourage the pus to drain away, after which symptoms improve rapidly.
Some doctors advise using a cool compress during the first two days until the symptoms of pain have gone, and then to switch to warm compresses. Warm compresses, if used initially, may exacerbate the swelling.

Ibuprofen or acetimophen (Tylenol, paracetamol) may help if the stye is particularly painful.

If an external stye is extremely painful the doctor may remove the eyelash nearest to it, and drain the pus away by lancing it with a thin needle. Do not try to do this yourself. If things do not improve the patient may be referred to a specialist, for example, an ophthalmologist.

If the stye persists the doctor may prescribe a topical antibiotic cream or antibiotic eyedrops. If the infection spreads beyond the eyelid, oral antibiotics may be prescribed.

Do not apply eye makeup, lotions, or wear contact lenses until the stye has completely gone.

What are the possible complications of a stye?

Complications, although extremely rare, may sometimes occur.

Meibomian cyst - this is a cyst of the small glands (Meibomian glands) located in the eyelid. The glands discharge a lubricant, called sebum in the edge of the eyelid. A persistent stye on the inside of the eyelid can eventually develop into a Meibomian cyst (chalazions), especially if the gland is blocked. This type of cyst is easily and effectively treatable.

Preseptal cellulitis (periorbital cellulitis ) - this may develop if the infection spreads to tissue around the eye. The layers of skin around the eye become inflamed and red, making the eyelids go red and swollen. This is treated with antibiotics.


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