If your eyelid is painful, red or swollen, you might have an eye stye. They're common, annoying, and not pretty but they're also not difficult to treat and usually aren't dangerous. In fact, most styes can be treated at home and don't require medical attention. Here, three steps for treating a stye.

Step One: Diagnosis—Is it a stye or is it pinkeye (conjunctivitis)? 

If your eyeball and the pink area inside your lower eyelid is itchy, pink, irritated, crusty or oozing, you might have pinkeye. That's a viral or bacterial infection of the conjunctiva—the skin layer that covers the inside of your eyelid and outside of your eyeball. Most pinkeye infections are viral (sort of like a cold in your eye) and will go away on their own. Some, though, are caused by highly infectious bacteria and require treatment with antibiotic drops or ointment. If you believe you may have pinkeye, make an appointment with your doctor.

An eye stye affects just the eyelid, generally around the eyelashes. Styes are caused by a plugged oil gland near the eyelash that gets infected. It's similar to a pimple and often creates a swollen, painful bump. Styes usually develop over a few days and may drain and heal on their own. If the oil gland is completely blocked, however, a stye can become a chalazion large enough to affect vision. Chalazions usually heal on their own but if they get too big or painful, see your doctor. Normal eye styes, however, can be treated at home.

Step Two:  Avoid further irritation. 

Leave your contact lenses out. Don't put eye makeup on the affected eye. Don't rub or try to "pop" the stye. 

Step Three:  Promote healing.

Treating a stye is simple. Wet a washcloth with hot tap water. Wring it out and test that it's not too hot. Apply it to the affected eye for about ten minutes or until the washcloth is cool. Repeat this four to six times per day until the stye either comes to a head and drains itself or starts to heal as inflammation goes down. Never try to squeeze it or lance it. Just let your body heal itself. 

If your stye doesn't get better within a few days with hot compresses, call your doctor.