doctors discussing how to prevent styes

Stye Prevention

A stye is a small, red bump that looks much like a pimple or boil. They form on the eyelids. Although they generally clear up after a few weeks, they can be quite painful in the meantime. Much like virtually any disease, the easiest way to treat a stye is to take precautions against developing one in the first place. Here are a few ways to help prevent a stye from forming.

What Causes a Stye

Styes are the result of blockages and infections in the eye glands. There are two sebaceous glands and one sweat gland specific to styes. The sebaceous meibomian gland produces an oily secretion that keeps tears from evaporating thereby drying out the eye, and the glands of Zei produce a sebum to the eyelashes. Moll’s gland is a sort of sweat gland. A blockage in the meibomian duct causes an internal hordeolum (more towards the inside edge of the eyelid), while the other two result in an external hordeolum (on the outside edge of the eyelid). 

The blockages form when the substances the glands produce become thick and stop moving as freely. When this happens, the eye dries out and becomes less efficient at keeping bacteria from infecting the eye. The bacteria then infects one of the glands. It can also infect one of the follicles the eyelashes stem from, much like an ingrown hair. Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria responsible for a staph infection, are the most common culprits of a stye.

Risk Factors

Certain underlying disorders can increase the chances of developing a stye. Blepharitis is a condition in which the eyelids become red and swollen, and the eyes may become crusty. A stye can be a complication of this. Additionally, rosacea is a condition in which rash-like patches develop on the skin, particularly the face, with what appear to be tiny zits throughout. People who experience rosacea are more likely to develop blepharitis, and thus more likely to develop a stye. If you experience chronic eye issues or either of these problems, you may be more likely to develop a stye and so should practice careful preventative practices. 


The best way to prevent an infection from developing in your eye is to practice careful ocular hygiene. Staph bacteria mostly live in the nose and occur naturally in a large percent of the population. It’s not abnormal to rub your hand across your nose and then rub your eyes, particularly if you have a cold or are prone to allergies. This is a prime chance for staph bacteria to get into your eyes. Wash your hands carefully with warm soap and water before you touch your eyes. 

Another way bacteria tend to get into the eyes is through dirty contacts. Disinfect your contacts, never let someone else wear them, and don’t wear old contacts. If you wear your contacts while you have a stye, you may just be transferring the bacteria back and forth between your eyes and your contact case. Makeup can also be a carrier. Don’t share makeup, and don’t wear it while you have an eye infection to avoid the same phenomenon as will occur with your contacts. Throw out any old, expired makeup. Taking care to avoid transferring bacteria to your eyes is the best way to prevent a stye. 

Last Updated: December 12, 2016