Styes and Chalazia

April 10, 2013

Styes and chalazia are similar, but distinctly different, eyelid conditions which can be painful and recurrent. Both will often affect the lid margins, the area where the inner lid meets the outer lid, but chalazia can often occur seemingly “underneath” the eyelid farther away from the lid margin while styes will often occur along the lash line. These conditions can warrant medical intervention, especially if they become recurrent or if they are especially painful, do not resolve, or become actively inflamed and tender to the touch. People with oily skin types can be at a higher risk for stye/chalazion development. 

Styes are often the result of a bacterial infection. In appearance styes resemble small pimples and can be red and inflamed. Washing the lids and ensuring that makeup is properly cared for are two ways in which you can avoid putting yourself at undue risk for styes. Styes will usually self-resolve, but can last for a week or longer if left untreated. Treatments include topical ointments which your doctor would prescribe.
Chalazia (the plural of chalazion) can occur much like styes; while styes appear similar to pimples, chalazia often look and feel like firm lumps under the lid. They can be tender to the touch or can be painless. A chalazion can resolve on its own but may need intervention from an eye care professional in the form of warm compress use, topical drops, topical ointment, surgical drainage, and/or surgical excision and biopsy.

You can reduce your risk for styes and chalazia by using warm compresses as often as you can (this is especially beneficial for patients with meibomianitis and/or oily skin), removing and storing contact lenses according to your eye professional’s recommendations, washing your hands prior to touching your eye area and/or applying makeup, avoiding makeup use while a stye or chalazion is active, and avoiding eye rubbing altogether. Above all, do NOT attempt to pop any bump which appears on or around the ocular area; this can worsen styes and chalazia by causing them to spread and affect a broader area of your eyelids.