Styes and Chalazia

Saturday, Jan 2, 2021 by Nisha Gupta, MD

This month we will discuss two common eyelid bumps. Styes and chalazia are common reasons for seeking a consultation with an eye doctor.

What are styes and chalazia?

Styes and chalazia are bumps of the eyelid. A stye is a localized infection of a hair follicle, usually on the outside of the eyelid. A chalazion is localized inflammation from the blockage of an oil gland of the eyelid. These start from the inside of the eyelid. As the gland becomes more blocked, the oils cannot escape, which creates the bump of the eyelid.

What are the symptoms?

Both bumps can present with soreness and redness of the eyelid. They may cause some symptoms of dry eye syndrome including the feeling of something in the eye. Crusting of the eyelids may occur with some styes. Chalazia may become larger with time and cause mild blurry vision.

What do styes and chalazia look like?

A stye often looks like a small pimple at the base of an eyelash. The photo here shows a stye.


Stye. Image Source 1

A chalazion is a small smooth bump of the eyelid. When the eyelid is flipped, the doctor can see a white spot indicating which gland is blocked. The photo here shows a chalazion.


Chalazion. Image Source 1

What are the treatments?

Warm compresses: These are a good conservative method for relieving styes and chalazia. The warmth of the compress will open any blockages. One can warm a washcloth with very warm water. Another option is to put a small amount of uncooked rice in a bowl and microwave it for 10-20 seconds until it is warm. The rice can be put in a washcloth and held on the eyelid. There are also eye masks sold in stores that contain beads which heat up in the microwave. The most important thing is to ensure that the cloth is not too hot as the eyelid skin is thin and can burn. It is most useful to apply the warm compresses several times a day for 5-10 minutes.

Lid scrubs: It is important to keep the eyelids clean from debris and dirt that collects in the lashes. This can be done by taking a small amount of baby shampoo and gently rubbing the eyelids with clean fingers. Wash with warm water. Another option is to purchase a cloth scrub that contains a soap.

Lubricating drops: These are eye drops that are like your own tears. These may be used throughout the day if there are any dry eye symptoms.

Prescription medications: Doctors may prescribe antibiotic or steroid eye drops to help relieve the bumps. Some also use oral antibiotics for chalazia that are especially good for inflammation.

Omega 3 vitamins: Studies have shown that these vitamins can help with inflammation and dryness.

Incision and drainage: This is an option if the bump has not resolved on its own. It is done in the office using local anesthesia.

Other tips: Avoid wearing contact lenses and eye makeup if you have a stye or chalazion. Many of these treatments are conservative and can be continued after a stye or chalazion has resolved to prevent reoccurrence.

Return next month for a discussion on a new topic!

  1. Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons [return]

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