Stye or Chalazion: Eyelid Bumps and How to Treat Them

When you notice a bump on your eyelid, it can be hard to determine whether it’s a chalazion or a stye. While most bumps of these kinds are harmless, though able to make you feel pain for some time, there are cases in which consulting a doctor is a must. Let’s find out in what ways chalazions and styes differ, and when it is time to have your bump examined.

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What is a chalazion?

While chalazions and styes may be difficult to distinguish between, there are some differences which make it possible to find out what has attacked your eyelid in this particular case.

The term ‘chalazion’ denotes a cyst which appears when an oil gland in the eyelid becomes blocked. Here are specific features of chalazions which can be used to distinguish between the two:

  • In most cases, chalazions appear in the middle of the lid.
  • In most cases, chalazions are not painful.
  • Chalazions are usually red.
  • The affected eyelid becomes swollen.
  • Some people experience increased tearing.
  • The affected eyelid becomes heavy.
  • Conjunctiva also becomes red.

Sometimes chalazions follow appearance of a stye, but quite often is its hardened oil that blocks the gland and leads to formation of a cyst.

What is a stye?

Unlike chalazions, which are the result of blocking an oil gland, a stye is due to a bacterial infection attacking the eyelid, i.e. its oil glands. In most people, the bacteria to blame are Staphylococcus aureus. So the main difference between chalazions and styes is that they are of different natures: while the former has nothing to do with infections, the latter has a bacterial infection behind it. This difference also determines the specific features of styes:

  • In most cases, styes appear at the eyelid edge.
  • In most cases, styes are painful. The pain is localized.
  • Styes are usually red with a yellowish spot seen at the bump center.
  • The affected eyelid also becomes swollen.
  • Tearing can also be seen in some people.
  • A stye can cause blurred vision, eyelid droopiness, mucous discharge, tenderness, burning or scratchy sensation in the eye, and discomfort, because a stye feels like a foreign body.
  • The onset of styes is usually more sudden than those of chalazions.

Both chalazions and styes are difficult to prevent, as it is not known what exactly can cause them, but it’s believed that proper hygiene can help avoid such problems. Styes can follow blepharitis or immunoglobulin deficiency.

How are they treated at home?

Most chalazions and styes do not need professional care, because they usually resolve on their own. Warm compresses remain one of the key means of helping them resolve faster. Antibiotics are rarely used, because there is poor evidence suggesting their effectiveness in such cases. Cleansing your eyelids is a must, but make sure you use a nonirritating soap and do it gently so as not to aggravate the situation and spread the infection from the stye.

One of the key things to remember is that trying to pop chalazions or styes is a bad idea: it will make matters worse and contribute to infection spreading. Just wait for them to disappear on their own – it can take several weeks. Gentle (!) massage can benefit your eyelid, but don’t rub it too often. When the sore has drained, clean the eyelid and do your best not to touch it.
Contact lenses and makeup should be avoided for as long as the chalazion/stye is there.

When is it time to consult a doctor?

While most chalazions and styes do not require special treatment, you should consult your GP if it gets too big or painful, or if it does not respond to warm compresses. Bumps that remain should be examined by a professional, because in rare cases they can be caused by skin cancer. If surgery is required and pus is drained, the stye removed is sent to a laboratory to find out whether there is something dangerous in it.

References:

Hordeolum (Stye) –Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Chalazion – Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Chalazion Treatment & Management – Emedicine.medscape.com

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