How to treat a stye if it is still swollen after using antibiotic eyedrops, and when does it need to be drained?
I’ve been having a stye for 3 weeks on the underside of my upper eyelid. I have used antibiotic eyedrops for 1 week, as instructed by my GP. However, it is still swollen. What should I do next? In particular, I’m wondering whether it will "heal naturally" and go away by itself? Otherwise, when does a stye need to be drained?
I'm sorry to hear that you have had a stye for so long! I used to have styes as a teenager and can understand the discomfort and frustration it is causing you.
Our eye lid margin contain numerous oil glands, which secrete oil to lubricate our eyes (as part of the tear film). The opening of these oil glands can frequently get blocked, resulting in the secretions accumulating and forming a lump. When bacteria gains entry into this mass, it may cause an infection, resulting in a large, red, painful lump of pus, that may be either on the underside or outside of your eyelids.
In addition to antibiotic ointment/ cream, it is important to perform eye lid hygiene. I usually use a clean cotton square soaked in baby shampoo diluted with warm water to clean the eye lid margins. This will remove debris and bacteria from the eyelid margin and also unblock any clogged pores. You can then apply gentle warm compress (with a clean towel soaked in warm water -- careful not to burn your skin!) to the lump to encourage the secretions and pus to discharge. Do this at least twice a day, or more often if you can spare the time.
After a few days the swelling will usually get smaller and less red. It is common for a firm hard lump to remain. This residual lump may sometimes take weeks to resolve completely. It is important to continue lid hygiene practices to prevent further infection, or further styes from forming.
Some styes may require a small procedure to drain the contents of the stye, in order to accelerate healing. This is particularly so for large styes filled with pus. However, do remember that the stye may recur after the procedure, or new styes may form, if the oil gland openings remain clogged!
I do hope your stye has resolved by now, and if so, do continue to practice lid hygiene to prevent further occurrences -- it has worked quite well for me so far!