Contact lenses and stye

You may have never heard the word “stye” before, or perhaps you have, and yet it was not something that bothered you or particularly caught your interest when you first came across it. However, if you are looking it up now, it may be because you’ve recently developed or seen one. Hence, you are now wondering how and when a stye appears? What is it exactly? Is it caused by contact lenses? And can you wear lenses if you have one?

We have researched and collected a few tips to help you prevent styes, especially if you are used to wearing contact lenses - but first things first let’s start by defining the term.

What is a stye?

A stye (also spelled sty and known as hordeolum) is, in essence, a small cyst filled with pus (just like a pimple or red bump). It generally forms on the upper or lower eyelid but can also develop internally, following an inflammation of the meibomian glands. External styes affect the so-called Zeiss glands (glands that produce sebum) and can result in redness of the eyelids.

What causes a stye

Eye infections are often perceived as a consequence of the use of contact lenses. In reality, infections do not result from the simple use of lenses; instead, they are due to the lack of hygiene in maintaining them.

This is why we want to emphasise how important it is to take care of your lenses and avoid them coming into contact with bacteria such as Staphylococcus, recognised by most experts as the most frequent cause of stye.

Here’s a list of other common causes:

  • chronic diseases such as diabetes, seborrheic dermatitis or hypercholesterolemia
  • poor hygiene, due to the use of contact lenses that are not thoroughly cleaned or applied with dirty hands, or the use of expired cosmetics etc.
  • rosacea
  • blepharitis
  • conjunctivitis

Having established that contact lenses, per se, are not responsible for the development of styes, the question still remains:

Can you wear contact lenses with a stye?

Theoretically, yes, you can, providing that you take all the necessary precautions and that your hygiene is spot on. However, in some instances it may be advisable to take a break and wear glasses to give the eyes a rest. In any case, we suggest you consult your optometrist to gain more information on what to do.

How to prevent a stye

The best way to prevent contracting a stye is to follow your optician’s advice and maintain good eye hygiene.

Here are some useful tips:

  • Wash your face: wash your face every day before going to bed to remove dirt, pollution, and makeup. If your skin is very delicate and irritated by face soaps, consult a dermatologist and ask what kind of soap you can use
  • Wash your hands: it is important to wash your hands thoroughly and often. We’ve all heard it repeatedly from the start of the pandemic, and with good reason. Soap, in fact, helps to eliminate bacteria and prevent infections from being transmitted. Before you touch your eyes, be sure to always wash your hands. If you are not at home or near a public service, use a hand sanitiser spray or soap sheets
  • Take good care of your contact lenses: always remember to wash your hands before putting on and removing your contact lenses. Make sure you clean your lenses thoroughly using a suitable solution. If your eyes feel itchy or irritated, do not rub them, and use eye drops instead. If you use disposable lenses, always remember to throw them away at the end of the day and replace them with a new pair the next time you wear them

How to maintain good lens care

Opting for a good quality contact lens solution is vital if you wear monthly or two-weekly lenses. Make sure to check the bottle’s use-by date, as solutions should never be used once expired. Another thing to remember is never to mix in other liquids and never to add water. Mixing products changes their original formula and can reduce their effectiveness.

Custodia per lenti a contatto con gocce di liquido soluzione

Daily contact lenses are more hygienic

Daily contact lenses are the best choice if you are prone to developing styes or have contracted one and want to protect your eyes from experiencing it again.

This type of disposable lens does not require the same attention in care as reusable ones. Because they are meant for single usage, the chances for bacterial transmission through handling are significantly reduced. The possibility of human error, oversights or distractions in touching the lenses is very low because hand contact on the same pair occurs only at the time of application and removal. Maintaining a high level of hygiene will help prevent any eye infection, irritation or itching.

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How is a stye treated?

Fortunately, although aesthetically unattractive and capable of causing discomfort and stinging, styes are not permanent. Styes should typically disappear spontaneously within days. Healing can undoubtedly be helped by good hygiene and, sometimes, warm water compresses gently applied on the affected eyelid.

However, if your stye seems a bit tougher to get rid of and won’t go away by itself, then it could actually be a chalazion. Due to their very similar appearance, the two are often confused. Yet, chalazia can be more serious and may require different treatment if they persist. If this is the case, avoid resorting to alternative home methods, or applying non-prescribed creams and ointments. Instead, book an appointment and consult your ophthalmologist, as you may need a differential diagnosis, surgery or a small incision to remove the follicle (this is usually performed with local anaesthesia).