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Styes and Chalazia - Topic Overview

What are styes and chalazia?

Styes and chalazia are lumps in or along the edge of an eyelid. They may be painful or annoying, but they are rarely serious. Most will go away on their own without treatment.

  • A stye camera.gif is an infection that causes a tender red lump on the eyelid. Most styes occur along the edge of the eyelid. When a stye occurs inside the eyelid, it is called an internal hordeolum (say "hor-dee-OH-lum").
  • A chalazion camera.gif (say "kuh-LAY-zee-on") is a lump in the eyelid. Chalazia (plural) may look like styes, but they are usually larger and may not hurt.

Styes and chalazia may be related to blepharitis, a common problem that causes inflammation of the eyelids.

What causes a stye or chalazion?

Styes are caused by a bacterial infection. Usually the bacteria grow in the root (follicle) of an eyelash. An internal hordeolum is caused by infection in one of the tiny oil glands inside the eyelid.

A chalazion forms when an oil gland in the eyelid becomes blocked. If an internal hordeolum doesn't drain and heal, it can turn into a chalazion.

What are the symptoms?

A stye usually starts as a red bump that looks like a pimple along the edge of the eyelid.

  • As the stye grows, the eyelid becomes swollen and painful, and the eye may water.
  • Most styes swell for about 3 days before they break open and drain.
  • Styes usually heal in about a week.

A chalazion starts as a firm lump or cyst under the skin of the eyelid.

  • Unlike styes, chalazia often don't hurt.
  • Chalazia grow more slowly than styes. If a chalazion gets large enough, it may affect your vision.
  • The inflammation and swelling may spread to the area surrounding the eye.
  • Chalazia often go away in a few months without treatment.

How is a stye or chalazion diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose these problems by closely examining the eyelid. It may be hard to tell the difference between a stye and a chalazion. If there is a hard lump inside the eyelid, the doctor will probably diagnose it as a chalazion.

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