Singer Sam Smith regularly posts photos of himself on Instagram, but the one he shared Monday was a little different: In it, the “Stay with Me” singer is wearing an eye patch over a bandage in what appears to be a medical office. “Stye with me,” he captioned the shot.
Smith shared a photo of his (patch-less) swollen eye on Instagram Stories earlier that day and said that he was due to have an operation that he was “fucking scared” about, per People. He followed that up by saying that he was being “super dramatic. It’s like a 15 minute operation.” Pre-surgery, Smith shared on Instagram that he’d “been feeling sorry for myself all day because my fucking eye is in agony and getting worse and worse.”
But post-op, he seemed pretty happy about the whole thing, posting several photos of himself posing in his eye patch to Instagram Stories.
A stye is a painful (and possibly pus-filled) bump along the eyelid caused by an infection of nearby oil glands, the Mayo Clinic explains.
While they typically form on the outside of your eyelid, they can also form on the inside. Along with that red bump on your eyelid, you might also have swelling and pain in the eyelid, and it may cause you to tear up. Another condition that can cause similar symptoms is a chalazion (the two terms are often used interchangeably—and it’s not totally clear which type of bump Smith was dealing with). But, technically, a chalazion occurs when the oil glands become blocked rather than infected.
There are a few things that put you at risk for developing a stye, including touching your eyes with unwashed hands, putting in your contacts without disinfecting them (or your hands) well beforehand, leaving your makeup on overnight, using old or expired makeup, having blepharitis (a chronic inflammation along the edge of your eyelid), or having rosacea, the Mayo Clinic says.
Most styes don’t require surgery unless they aren’t getting better with the usual treatments.
In fact, most styes are so minor that people don’t even go to the doctor for them, Aaron Zimmerman, O.D., an associate professor of clinical optometry at The Ohio State University, tells SELF.
If you start to develop symptoms of a stye, the best thing to do is to put a warm compress over your eyelid for 5 to 10 minutes several times a day and massage your eyelid, the Mayo Clinic says. If you’re dealing with a blocked oil gland, the compress may help melt that oil back into a liquid form so that it will work its way out, Benjamin Bert, M.D., an ophthalmologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells SELF.
You want to start with the warm compresses at the first sign of symptom of a stye. “The key is to try to catch it early before it develops into a bigger problem,” Mina Massaro-Giordano, M.D., co-director of the Penn Dry Eye & Ocular Surface Center and a professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, tells SELF. If you wear contacts, you’ll also want to switch to glasses until things clear up; you can get bacteria on your lens that can make the stye worse, the Mayo Clinic says.
If you’re still struggling 48 hours later or if the swelling has moved beyond your eyelid to your cheek or other parts of your face, it’s time to call your doctor.
At that point, they’ll likely recommend antibiotic eyedrops or a topical antibiotic cream to apply to your eyelid, the Mayo Clinic says. And, if the stye persists or spreads beyond your eyelid, your doctor may add oral antibiotics to the mix.
If you’ve tried all of that but the stye still doesn’t seem to be getting better, that’s when your doctor may recommend surgery. “Surgery is often performed if the patient is getting worse with increasing signs of infection and/or abscess formation,” Jacqueline R. Carrasco, M.D., attending surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital, tells SELF.
Luckily, this surgery is pretty simple: First, you’ll have an anesthetic injected into your eyelid to numb the area, Dr. Zimmerman says. Then, using a special clamp, your doctor will flip the eyelid over. Then, your doctor will use a scalpel to pierce the stye and remove the contents of the bump with a curette. Finally, your doctor flips the eyelid back over and removes the clamp.
If you do need surgery, most people can expect to be back at work the day, Dr. Carrasco says.
And you might be working an eye patch a la Smith post-op for a day or so afterward. “It may be more comfortable to wear an eye patch, and it keeps things from flying into the eye,” Dr. Massaro-Giordano explains. Your doctor will also likely send you home with topical treatments (like antibiotic drops and a steroid cream) and possibly even oral antibiotics, Dr. Carrasco says. If you’re having any discomfort, acetaminophen (Tylenol) should do the trick, she says.
It may still take a week or two for all of the swelling to go down, but “if it’s a large stye, you can notice significant improvement immediately,” Dr. Bert notes.
Again, it’s not common for someone with a stye to need surgery. But if you’re having eyelid pain and it’s just not getting better after a few days of warm compresses, see your doctor. They should be able to help clear things up.