Styes and Chalazia

What is a Stye (a.k.a. Sty or Hordeolum)?

A stye is a red, tender bump on your eyelid caused by an infection in one of the glands in your eyelid known as a meibomian gland. A stye is sometimes accompanied by swelling of your eyelid.

What is a Chalazion (plural: chalazia)?

A chalazion is also a bump on your eyelid. It is the more chronic form of a stye, also having developed when one of the glands in your eyelid, known as a meibomian gland,  became clogged.

What is the Difference Between a Stye and a Chalazion?

They are both bumps involving your eyelid.

A stye is often tender, or painful, and is caused by an infection; it can progress to involve and inflame the entire eyelid (cellulitis).

A chalazion is usually not red or painful, but can be large enough to distort your eyelid, even placing enough pressure on the surface of your eye to result in blurry vision. Less commonly, it can become red, swollen and tender.

What Causes a Stye or a Chalazion?

The most common cause of a stye or a chalazion is the clogging, and secondary infection, of one of the glands in your eyelid known as a meibomian gland (most commonly with staphylococcus).

Symptoms of a Stye or Chalazion:

Signs and symptoms of a stye and chalazion include:

  • A bump on your eyelid (similar to a pimple). It may be red and inflamed
  • Eyelid pain and tenderness
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Crustiness along your eyelid margin, with “dandruff” in your eyelashes

Who is at Risk of Developing Styes and Chalazia?

Anyone can develop a stye or a chalazion, but people who have the following are at greater risk:

  • Blepharitis
  • Ocular rosacea (or rosacea of your face)
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction
  • Seborrheic dermatitis (patches of scaly, red skin, mainly on the scalp)
  • People with diabetes, or other chronic medical problems
  • People experiencing hormonal changes
  • People with Demodex
  • People experiencing stress
  • People who have had a stye or a chalazion before

How are Styes and Chalazia Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of both styes and chalazia are made clinically by examining your eyelids with a biomicroscope.

What is the Treatment for Styes and Chalazia?

  • Applying warmth to the involved eyelid for 20 minutes, 4-5 times each day. This is most effective when done with a warm gel pack, not a washcloth.
  • Eyelid hygiene a minimum of 2 times each day (see “lid hygiene” for more details).
  • Prescription antibiotics in the form of eye drops, ointment and/or tablets by mouth (depending upon the extent of your infection).
  • If your stye or chalazion does not resolve using warmth and antibiotics, Dr. Muller may recommend drainage. This is easily performed in the office; it is not painful after Dr. Muller anesthetizes the area using local anesthetics.

Note: Please do not try to pop or squeeze a stye or chalazion yourself as this can cause the infection to spread throughout your eyelid.