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Are Eye Styes Caused By Stress?

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A close-up of a child's eye with a noticeable small red bump on their lower eyelid

If you notice a small red bump on your eyelid, you may be experiencing an eye stye. Styes can be uncomfortable and unsightly, but they are usually harmless and can be treated at home or with the help of your optometrist.

While no conclusive evidence proves stress causes styes, optometrists believe that stress and lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, making you more inclined to develop styes. If you develop frequent styes, book an eye exam and discuss possible causes and solutions with your optometrist.

What Are Styes?

A stye (or hordeolum) is a small, painful bump that appears on or inside the eyelid. It can appear like a pimple near your eyelash follicle. Styes can occur on the upper or lower eyelid and sometimes affect both eyes simultaneously. They can range from a small pimple to a large, swollen bump.

Alongside the visible bump, you may experience other symptoms, including:

  • Swelling of the eyelid
  • Crusting along the eyelid margin
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Itching
  • Watery eyes
  • Feeling like something is in your eye

Styes can develop externally or internally. Most commonly, styes occur on the outside eyelid. Internal styes form on the inner eyelid facing your eye.

Stress and Eye Styes

While there isn’t definitive research to prove this, some professionals believe that stress can contribute to the development of styes in some individuals. Stress can weaken the immune system, making it more susceptible to infections. Additionally, hormones that contribute to stress, including norepinephrine, may help attract bacteria.

A lack of sleep may also contribute to lower immune function, and when you’re tired, you’re more likely to rub and touch your eyes. Touching your face and eyes can introduce bacteria that can cause irritation, infection, and styes.

Other Causes of Styes

Styes are usually caused by a bacterial infection of the eyelid. This can occur when the oil glands or eyelash follicles become blocked due to excess oil, dirt, or makeup.

Anyone can develop a stye, but you may have an increased risk under certain conditions, including:

  • A history of styes
  • Skin conditions like rosacea or dandruff
  • Diabetes
  • Dry skin
  • Hormonal changes
  • High cholesterol
  • Using contaminated makeup
  • Wearing makeup overnight

Styes can also be caused by blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelid that can lead to redness, swelling, and irritation.

If you have experienced multiple styes or have recurring symptoms, you should see your eye doctor to rule out any underlying health issues.

A young woman is taking off her makeup and cleansing her eyelids with wet wipes while sitting in front of a mirror.

Preventing Eye Styes

Whether stress is a direct cause of eye styes or not, taking steps to prevent them is essential. If you’re dealing with stress, consider incorporating stress management techniques into your daily routine, like yoga or meditation.

Some ways to help prevent styes include:

  • Practicing good eyelid hygiene
  • Treating blepharitis, dandruff, and rosacea
  • Disinfecting and replacing contact lenses on schedule
  • Washing your hands
  • Avoiding touching or rubbing your eye

Stye Treatments

Most styes will heal on their own, but there are some things you can do to help speed up the healing process and reduce discomfort.

  • Apply a warm compress to the affected eye several times a day
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling
  • Cleanse your eyelid with an eyelid cleanser or gentle soap

If you already have a stye, take precautions to speed healing, including:

  • Washing your hands
  • Avoiding eye makeup
  • Discarding old cosmetics
  • Wearing glasses rather than contact lenses

If your stye is particularly large or painful, your eye doctor may recommend lancing the stye to remove pus and promote healing. In rare cases, a stye may lead to complications such as a chalazion (a cyst that forms on the eyelid) or an infection that spreads to other parts of the eye.

If you experience any changes in vision or severe pain, you should seek eye care promptly.

Book an Appointment for Healthy Eyes

While most styes are harmless and can be treated at home, if you’re concerned about the severity of symptoms of your stye, your optometrist can help provide the proper treatment. Book an eye exam in Calgary, Olds, Sundre, or Carstairs to help detect vision problems and preserve eye health. Visits to address styes or most eye health concerns are covered by Alberta Health care for patients of all ages.

With a range of treatments for styes, dry eyes, and other eye problems, you can find options to help keep your eyes comfortable.

Written by Dr. Tanya Sitter

More Articles By Dr. Tanya Sitter

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