What are styes and chalazia?
A stye (hordeolum) is an infection of an oil gland in the eyelid. A stye causes a swollen, red, and painful bump on the eyelid margin. A chalazion is a sterile, non-infectious, slowly developing a bump that forms from blockage and swelling of an oil gland in the eyelid. A chalazion often starts out from a small internal stye that can be red, tender or become swollen. It may change over the next several days to a small painless slow-growing pea-sized bump. Risk factors for developing a stye or chalazion include chronic blepharitis, acne rosacea, and viral infections.
How are styes and chalazia treated?
Styes are usually treated with observation and warm compresses, although treatment with topical or oral antibiotics is sometimes necessary. If the area begins to swell or the adjacent area becomes swollen, contact your eye care provider immediately.
Most chalazia require minimal medical treatment and resolve on their own within weeks to months. The best treatment for a chalazion is warm compresses. This can be done by taking a clean small sock and filling it with rice. Tie a knot in the sock to form a small sack that can easily conform to the eye. Put the sock in a microwave to heat it for around 30 seconds or so. Place the sock in the inner side of the wrist to test the heat. If the sock is too hot to bear on your wrist, it is too hot to be placed on the eye. Once you have reached the adequate heat, place it on the affected area for 5-10 minutes. After you remove the warm compress, massage the area lightly to help break up its contents.
Warm compresses will help to promote drainage and reabsorption of the chalazion. This breaks the hardened oil that is blocking the duct and allows it to drain and heal. It is normal for the chalazion to raise to the surface and express itself. The irritated area will then crust over and heal quickly.
In some cases, your doctor may decide to inject a steroid directly into the chalazion. This is mostly reserved for chalazia that are new (< 6 weeks), superficial, and relatively small in size. Surgical removal is considered for persistent lesions that do not resolve after one or two months of warm compresses treatment. Never attempt to squeeze or “pop” the chalazion yourself as this may cause more damage.