stye causes headache

Can a stye cause a headache?

Are you having swelling on your eyelid and wondering if it could be the cause of the headache that you are suffering from? That swelling is most likely a stye and therefore what you are looking for is probably an answer to the question “can a stye cause headache?”.

Let us, therefore, take a look at what a stye is and finally if it can cause headache.

What is a stye or hordeolum 

A stye also known as hordeolum is a red, painful lump near the edge of your eyelid that may look like a boil or a pimple. It is caused by an acute bacterial infection or inflammation of the oil glands in the eyelid. 

If the gland is blocked, the oil produced by the gland will become congested and cause the oil to protrude through the wall of the gland forming a lump. 

A stye can grow on the upper and or lower eyelid and cause tenderness and burning. A stye is mostly filled with pus. They can cause a burning sensation and itching around the eye. Blurred vision is also another symptom of a stye.

Can a stye cause a headache?

This is a very common question that most people ask. A number of people suffer some form of headaches whilst they have a stye. In such circumstances, it is usually quite difficult to attribute the cause of the headache solely to the styes. So, the question is, can a stye really cause a headache?

The right answer is yes, a stye can cause a headache. As explained earlier, a stye is basically a bacterial infection leading to inflammation of the eyelids. Inflammations like this are associated with swellings, redness, and pain which are all observed in people having styes.

The pain from the stye can radiate to different parts of the head even though it is generated from the inflammation of the eyelids. There are some nerves in the body responsible for the transmission of pain throughout the body and some of these nerves may be the reason why a stye on the eyelid or beneath it is able to induce a headache in the sufferer.

Styes are not noted for causing headaches. They are mostly known for causing pain in and around the eye or eyes. 

Types of stye

There are 2 types of stye namely:

  • Internal hordeolum 
  • External hordeolum.

Internal hordeolum

This type of stye develops inside the eyelid. An internal hordeolum is more painful than the external hordeolum. It is referred to as an internal hordeolum stye because it mostly occurs due to an infection in the meibomian gland. 

These glands produce a secretion that makes up part of the film that covers the eye. Most internal styes last for 7 days or less.

What are the symptoms of an internal stye?

Symptoms of an internal stye include the following 

  • red or white bump along the base of the eyelashes
  • lump or swelling on the eyelid
  • swelling of the entire eyelid
  • crusting on the eyelashes, eye, or eyelid
  • oozing or fluid
  • pain or soreness
  • itchiness
  • tearing or watery eyes
  • feeling like there is something in your eye
  • blurred vision

What causes an internal stye?

An internal or inner stye is usually caused by a bacterial infection in an oil gland in your eyelid. You can get an infection from normal bacteria on your skin or in your body. A bacterial infection in your nose or sinuses can also spread to your eye and cause an internal stye. Wearing contact lenses or false eyelashes or using makeup brushes can also spread bacteria to your eyelids and eyes.

What are the risks from an internal stye?

Even though it is not contagious, you still stand the risk of spreading bacteria from an internal stye to your eye. This can happen if you rub, pop, or squeeze a stye. An internal stye can last longer. A severe internal stye can sometimes become chronic and return after it heals. It can also cause a hardened cyst, or chalazion, on the inside of your eyelid.

How are internal styes diagnosed?

If you have an internal stye, you can see your optometrist or any other qualified health professional. If you have a severe case, you may be referred to an eye specialist known as an ophthalmologist.

The specialist can examine your eye to see if you have an internal stye. You may need a swab test to find out if you have an infection. A swab test is painless and takes only a few seconds.

Your doctor will dab a cotton swab along your eyelid. The sample will be sent to a lab to find out what kind of infection may be causing the internal stye.

Treatment for an internal stye

Medical treatment like antibiotics can be used to treat an internal stye. Also, using a clean warm compress, flushing the infected eye with sterile saline are home remedies that treat an internal stye.

External hordeolum

Also known as an external stye, it occurs along the outer edge of the eyelid. It is a red painful bump on the surface of the eyelid. The bump may look like a pimple and is very tender when touched. It can also appear anywhere on the eyelid. However, it is most likely to form near the edge of the eye, where the eyelashes meet the eyelid. Children are most affected by an external stye

What are the symptoms of an external stye?

Below are some of the symptoms of an external stye

  • gritty feeling in the eye
  • eye pain or tenderness
  • eye tearing or leakage
  • swollen eyelid
  • light sensitivity
  • redness and soreness at the edge of the eyelid

What are the causes of an external stye?

Infections in the following areas may cause external styes:

  • Eyelash follicle: The small holes in the skin from which eyelashes grow.
  • Sebaceous gland: This gland is attached to the eyelash follicle and produces sebum. Sebum helps lubricate the eyelash and stops it from drying out.
  • Apocrine gland: This gland also helps prevent eyelashes from drying out. It is a sweat gland that empties into the eyelash follicle.

How is an external stye diagnosed?

An external stye can be diagnosed by a doctor. They examine the appearance of your eye. And check your symptoms

How is an external stye treated?

Most of the time, external styes disappear on their own. Antibiotic creams can also be used to treat an external stye.

A doctor can also recommend some home remedies to speed up the treatment or recovery process. They might tell you to put warm compresses over the stye. To do this, soak a clean washcloth in warm water. Wring out the excess water and then place the washcloth over the affected eyelid. 

This should be done three to four times per day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Applying heat encourages the stye to release any pus, which will help drain the fluid and remove the infection from the oil gland.

It is also recommended that you avoid reusing any makeup worn right before the stye developed. The makeup may carry bacteria that can cause another infection.

 The takeaway from this article

Styes can cause headaches in people. They are often caused by bacteria infecting an eyelash follicle or eyelid gland. Keeping your eyes clean, avoiding rubbing eyes with your hands, and wearing clean lenses can help prevent styes. 


Michael Sarfo
Content Creator at Wapomu

Michael Sarfo is a graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon. He is a content creator for and a writer for Wapomu

Chief Editor at

MPSGH, MRPharmS, MPhil.

Isaiah Amoo is a practicing community pharmacist in good standing with the Pharmacy Council of Ghana who has meaningful experience in academia and industrial pharmacy. He is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, England, UK and currently pursuing his overseas pharmacy assessment programme (MSc) at Aston University, UK. He had his MPhil degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He has about 5 years’ experience as a community Pharmacist and has also taught in academic institutions like KNUST, Kumasi Technical University, Royal Ann College of Health, and G-Health Consult. He likes to spend time reading medical research articles and loves sharing his knowledge with others.

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