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Sty is the most common term used for an acute infection of the hair follicle or glands at the edge of the eyelid. The correct medical term is Hordeolum.
Sties are usually caused by the Staphylococcus germ and are very common among the following groups of people: children, those with chronic lid infections, diabetics, and sometimes in debilitated patients with poor hygiene. Sties tend to be painful, especially in the early stages when swelling and redness are prominent. With time they often form an abscess and point to the skin, more rarely toward the eyeball itself. They are very contagious.
Treatment consists of frequent hot packs, which usually speed up the formation of white heads and pointing toward the surface. Antibiotic drops help to decrease the number of germs present and prevent spread. Plucking out the lash from the middle of the sty will often promote its drainage. Rarely is surgical drainage necessary. If the tissues surrounding the sty are swollen and seem infected as well, oral antibiotics may be helpful in clearing up the condition more rapidly. Scarring is a rare consequence of sties.
Prevention of spread is important. Patients need to be careful with personal hygiene, including not sharing wash cloths and hand towels, and avoiding close personal contacts during the acute phase of the disease.