Today I stopped at my local pharmacy to pick up some vitamins for my wife and I noticed a medication in the "eye section". It was an ointment for the "symptomatic relief of styes". Before i go into a discussion of what is the appropriate treatment for styes and what is not, lets go over what a stye is:
A stye is a blockage of the oil gland of the eyelid. Normally our eyelids have oil glands that release oil with the tears onto the surface of the eye. That is why our tears are not 100% watery feeling. The oil serves to help lubricate the eye along with reduce the evaporation of tears from the eye surface. A stye is when the oil gland becomes blocked and backs up. As a result that portion of the oil gland swells and becomes a tender bump.
What is the treatment of a stye? Simple. Warm compresses. They help to dilate the oil gland and allow the oil to release. Often to be frank, antibiotic ointment or steroid ointment is not necessary. First the medication does not penetrate into the oil glands very well. Second, an infection is very uncommon cause of a stye. I recommend to patients to use dry rice in a sock in the microwave for 15 minutes. It stays warmer longer than a washcloth. Do that four times a day for a solid 2 weeks.
So what does this over the counter "medicine" contain? Mineral oil and Petrolatum. Mineral oil is a lubricant. Petrolatum is the same as vaseline. The "treatment" for styes from this product is non existant. If the eyeball is irritated from a stye, I can imagine it feeling better with ointment but there is certainly no medicine in this to treat a stye. I would not recommend this product to a patient. If you have a stye simply use warm compresses. See your eye doctor. If its not gone, see me and I can remove it (article for a different day). You don't need any "medication" actually. Initially atleast, you just need a sock with some rice in it...and some patience.