Is a Stye Contagious?

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Is a Stye Contagious?A stye looks like a pimple on the outer part of the eyelid, and it’s almost always located near the eyelashes.

It can grow large or stay relatively small, but it will be red and inflamed, and might even cause visual disturbances because of where it is located.

But is a stye contagious? In general, styes are not contagious, though they can be spread from one of your eyes to another if you’re not being careful about eye hygiene, e.g., using a cloth to clean the infected eye and then using that same cloth on the good eye, or using makeup in a similar manner.

While it’s possible to spread stye-causing bacteria to another person, the likelihood of that person then transferring that bacteria to their eye is fairly low. Styes are also more common in children because they’re more likely to touch their eyes with dirty hands.
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Don’t rub a stye because you might spread the infection and make the inflammation worse. Home remedies for styes are available, but try these after you have seen your doctor to make sure the issue is a stye and not something more serious, like an infection that might require antibiotics. It’s best not to mess around when it comes to eye health.

Can a Stye Spread from One Eye to the Other?

Styes may be red and sore, but they generally do not cause any damage to the eye or eyelids. Most clear up within a few days, even if no treatment is received. However, the infection from one stye can sometimes spread and cause more styes, and in rare circumstances, the entire eyelid may become infected.

A stye itself is not contagious but the bacterium that causes it is; in the vast majority of cases, styes are caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Be sure not to rub the stye so the bacterium doesn’t spread to the other eye or to other people. If you use a washcloth, put it in the hamper after use so that it doesn’t get re-used by anyone.

How Long Does it Take for a Stye to Go Away?

Though bothersome and unsightly, styes are relatively harmless and for the most part, they will resolve on their own by opening and draining within a couple of days, though sometimes it can take a week or two. Self-treatment may not be sufficient, and the pain may increase until medical treatment is needed. Contact your eye doctor or healthcare provider immediately if the stye lasts more than two weeks or if vision changes occur.

Home Remedies to Cure a Stye

Treating a stye is typically done without intervention from a medical doctor, and can be soothed and healed right at home, unless it doesn’t go away within two weeks, as mentioned before. Follow the suggestions below for stye treatments to help ease discomfort.

1. Wash Your Hands

It can’t be said enough, but proper hygiene can help prevent many infections, styes included. Wash your hands before touching your face, after going to the washroom, or anytime they might be covered in germs. And do not touch the stye unless your hands have just been washed. Styes are sometimes contagious, so keep your hands clean.

2. Leave it Alone

Don’t touch the stye because you might irritate it and could potentially spread the bacteria to the other eye, or even other people.

3. Use a Warm Compress

Take a washcloth and run it under warm water. Place it over the affected eye. The warmth will help reduce inflammation and redness.

4. Avoid Makeup

Don’t wear eye makeup for as long as the stye is on the eyelid. Wait until the infection has cleared.

5. Wash Your Face

Wash your face and eyes every morning and night to keep the area free of further bacteria and germs. Use a clean towel every time you dry your face.

6. Get Rid of Old Makeup

After three to six months, makeup should be discarded because it can be a breeding ground for germs; this is particularly true for eye makeup and mascara. Don’t share eye makeup with anyone because of the potential to spread germs.

7. Use Teabags

Teabags are an old remedy for dark circles under the eyes, bags under the eyes, and styes. Save teabags that have been used and then warm them up in warm water before placing over your eyes. Leave them on for 15 minutes. Use green tea if possible because of its antibacterial properties.

How to Prevent a Stye

Preventing a stye can be done by following a few simple habits, the most important of which is proper hygiene. Make sure to wash your face at least once a day and use a clean facecloth and towel. Don’t share towels with anyone else.

If you keep getting styes, you will need to practice better eye hygiene. One cleaning tip is to use baby shampoo to wash the eyelids. Mix a drop of baby shampoo in a cup of warm water. Take a cotton swab, wet it with the solution, and then swab it around the eye and eyelid.

If styes keep recurring, talk to your doctor to discuss further prevention options.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“The 8 Best Stye Remedies,” Healthline web site; http://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/best-stye-remedies, last accessed April 19, 2016.
“The 8 Best Stye Remedies,” Web MD web site;
http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/understanding-sty-prevention, last accessed April 19, 2016.


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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »