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Is Eye Stye Contagious?

Is Eye Stye Contagious?

A stye is the result of a bacterial infection in the sebaceous glands of the upper or lower eyelids. Being so, it is contagious and the infection can spread via direct or indirect contact. Let us understand the how and why of it.
Kritika Parwani
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
A stye or hordeolum, is a painful bump that can occur on the inner or outer side of the upper or lower eyelid. It is characterized by inflammation, eyelid tenderness as well as red, watery eyes. 90-95% of the cases are caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Unlike other staph infections, styes heal on their own, within a week or two at the most. However, this infection can spread due to lack of adequate hygiene.
Eye Stye and Staphylococcus
Staphylococci are a part of skin and nasal membrane microflora, and are generally harmless. However, they can spread to the eye and infect the sebaceous glands, especially in people with unhygienic habits. Such an infection leads to inflammation, formation of pus, and a painful bump. Unhygienic practices like touching the eyes often without washing hands, use of old or expired eye cosmetics, touching contact lenses without washing hands or wearing them without cleaning, etc. can cause styes and other eye infections.
This infection tends to spread more quickly among children and those with poor hygiene habits. However, the development of a stye after acquiring the staphylococcus strain from an infected individual, differs from person to person. Some people might be more susceptible to such infections. Moreover, people who are susceptible, are likely to develop other staphylococcus-related conditions like boils, blepharitis, and impetigo (very common among school children). Another important thing to note is that the time period between the transmission and development of symptoms can range from days to months. In other words, one may acquire the strain from an infected person but become symptomatic for a condition after several months. Therefore, a person needs to take precautionary measures if suffering from an eye stye, and also while dealing with people having a stye.
Eye Conditions that Mimic a Stye
Cysts and bumps on eyelids do not always imply a staph infection. They might be a result of some other underlying anomalies. Other conditions that may mimic a stye are often non-contagious. A chalazion is the most commonly occurring cyst. Also known as meibomian cyst, it refers to a cyst formed due to the blockage of meibomian glands, which are oil glands present in the eyelids. The blockage arises due to an increase in viscosity of the oil secreted by the gland. Eyelid cysts can be formed as a result of cancerous growth in the eyelids. Such cancerous cysts do not heal on their own and often need medical attention.
Precautionary Measures
A stye heals when it ruptures resulting in the drainage of the pus. However, during this phase, it is important to take certain precautionary measures to avoid the spread of infection. Some of the measures have been mentioned below.
  • Avoid rubbing and touching your eye often. Do not squeeze the stye or try to drain it.
  • Refrain from sharing towels, soaps, creams, and eye cosmetics with others, especially family members.
  • While using eye drops and ointments do not touch the tip with your hands. Also ensure that the tip does not touch the eye. Such a contact contaminates the tip as well as poses the risk of contracting other infections.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching the infected area while applying any medicinal gels.
  • Avoid the use of contact lenses till the stye heals, to prevent contamination of the lens and recurrence of the infection.
  • When the stye bursts and the pus drains, wash and wipe the eye as and when required. Pay special attention to the disposal of contaminated wipes or tissues.
Remedies
Antibiotic eye drops and ointments can be used with the consent of your physician. Certain home remedies also help alleviate the pain and aid in the healing process. Some of them have been listed below.
  • Apply warm compresses four to six times a day.
  • A tea bag dipped in warm water can also be used as a warm compress.
  • Dissolve a few granules of alum in water, and use it as an eye wash.
  • Make a poultice of baked apples or grated raw potatoes and apply it on the eyes.
  • Put some coriander seeds in water and boil it. Let this water cool. Use it to wash your eyes three to four times a day.
It is best to let a stye heal on its own rather than squeezing and popping it, as that will make matters worse. To avoid the spread of infection, one needs to cautiously improve personal hygiene. This will help prevent others from developing a stye or other staph-associated infections.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.