A stye, formally known as a hordoleum, is a result of the glands of the eyelid getting infected. There are two main types of stye. First is the external, caused by an infection of the oil gland for the eyelash, called the gland of Zeis. The second is the internal, caused by an infection of the oil gland that helps prevent the evaporation of tears and thus the drying of the eye, called the meibomian gland. So what causes a stye?
As stated above, styes are a result of infection of the oil glands of the eyelid. These are usually infections by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterium can usually be found on humans as part of the natural bacteria living on our skin. However, it can cause infections when the skin’s protection is compromised. One of the most commonly known types of S. aureus infection is acne. The fact that not too many people suffer from styes at a given time shows that the eyelid can protect its exposed oil glands from infection. However, people do get styes and so the next best thing to do is to learn to prevent it.
The bacterial cause of styes has already been discussed, so what can we do about it? The first thing is to prevent bacteria from getting there in the first place. This means that you should maintain proper hygiene. Wash your hands, take proper baths, and don’t rub your eyes. Poor sleep, nutrition, and other factors that lower the body’s immune system capabilities are also factors that can contribute to getting styes. There will be bacteria that reach the eye anyway, no matter what you do, so the immune system is there to compensate for that and fight the infection. Perhaps most importantly is to not share towels, especially face towels, with anyone who has a stye. This is because the strain of S. aureus present in that person’s eye has already been shown to be capable of overcoming his natural defenses, and that means that your immune system could be overcome as well.
Now that we’ve formally and colloquially answered the question of what causes a stye, the next thing to talk about is what to do if you get a stye anyway. The first and most important thing is to never pop the stye. For one thing, it will most likely be painful. Nobody wants to feel eye pains – it’s instinct to avoid anything that can hurt our soft, squishy, and vital eyeballs. In addition, popping will allow the infection to spread from the open wound into the rest of the eye, and therefore to other oil glands present in the eyelid, which will induce more styes. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to ignore it in the meantime, since a stye can go away on its own. If, however, you cannot tolerate the stye’s presence, or multiple styes develop, then feel free to seek medical attention. It is likely that you will be given a topical or oral antibiotic to combat the infection and make it go away. However, do not self-medicate with antibiotics! This cannot be emphasized enough. The last thing the medical field needs is another strain of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. If the stye still persists, then surgery can be an option if the doctor recommends it.
To summarize: What causes a stye? Infection caused by hygiene deficiencies. To prevent styes, maintain good hygiene. Do not pop styes. Observe and if the stye persists or multiply, seek medical attention.