Styes and Chalazia

Unsightly Lump on the Eyelids

Styes and chalazia are two eye disorders that are generally harmless and with similar treatment but are separate distinct conditions that can be traced to different causes. They are both lumpy outgrowth occurring on the edges of the upper and lower eyelids. And in most cases, it may be difficult to distinguish between the two without a deeper diagnosis.

What is a Stye?

Medically termed as hordeolum (hordeola for plural), a stye or often spelled simply as sty, is a tender pimple-like bump on the edge of the eyelid caused by a bacterial infection of the oil glands of an eyelid. Frequently a skin resident, the Staphylococcus Aureus bacterium accounts for 90% to 95% of stye outbreaks. Rarely serious, they are painful and irritating. A stye has a relatively short lifespan, starting out with what looks like a small pimple at the base of the eyelid near the lashes. It swells in 2-3 days before breaking out and draining on its own. It gets to be painful as it grows but eventually disappears in 5-7 days.

What is a Chalazion?

A chalazion (chalazia for plural) is a larger lump that occurs inside the eyelid caused by an enlargement of a blocked oil gland in the eyelid called the meibomian and not by any bacterial infection. It is a cystic inflammatory condition arising form the meibomian glands but is not painful. It is often more a distressing aesthetic facial problem in most cases. But it can also cause impairment or blurring of vision should it grow large enough to do so. In some cases, chalazia can be a complication developing from a stye that has not healed.

Dealing with Stye and Chalazia

Both conditions are generally harmless and can be managed with home treatment. But while both do heal on their own, the waiting time is anything but pleasant. Don’t let vanity take the better of your good judgment. It may be tempting to do but a stye or chalazion should never be pressed, pricked or squeezed since they could spread or aggravate the condition. Until your condition is fully healed, refrain from wearing any eye makeup or contact lenses which could further irritate and inflame the affected eye.

In most cases, the itch can be unbearable but complications and prolonged healing can happen when you rub your eyes. Avoid rubbing your eyes and if you have to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean so you don’t infect a chalazion. It’s often a good idea to replace your make-up set every 6 months to lessen the chances of bacteria growing in them and infecting any part of your face.

An application of warm compress or washcloth over the affected eyelid for 10-15 minutes four to six times daily can soothe the irritation and hasten the rupture while helping to relieve the pain in a stye. A warm compress can declog the blocked gland to open and drain yellow or white discharge. When the gland opens, a gentle massage around either the chalazion or stye can help in the draining.

You can also soak a washcloth in herbal solutions known to help ease the swelling and pain. An herbal mix of Oregon Grape Rood, acacia leaves and Goldenseal in warm water has been known to soothe the symptoms. Apply a washcloth soaked in the mix for the same duration and frequency as indicated above. Some common kitchen items can also help. Make a poultice out of grated potato and apply this on the affected eyelid for a few minutes to ease the swelling. You can also boil a whole coriander seed in a cup of water. Use this to rinse your eyes 3-4 times a day to ease both swelling and itchiness.

Severe Cases

While these conditions heal on their own in a week or less, you should get a doctor’s appointment if the natural healing is not taking place. Using antibiotic ointments are often prescribed for treating bacteria-cased stye that refuses to heal on its own after a week and are also prescribed in chalazia that have been diagnosed as infected. An infected chalazion can balloon and cause the same pain as a stye. In such cases, a doctor can administer an anti-inflammatory steroid injection, usually cortisone, to reduce the swelling. And if the chalazion is really that large and the stye is not healing despite all the previous treatments so that either is already affecting your vision, your doctor will take the last resort which is to surgically drain the enlarged gland. It’s an outpatient procedure using local anesthesia.