Chalazia and Styes

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A chalazion (top) is a lump inside the eyelid caused by a blockage in a small oil producing gland. A stye (bottom) is a similar swelling near the edge of the eyelid caused by an infected gland near the root or follicle of an eyelash.

Your eyelids are very important. They do much to protect your eyes from approaching objects and irritating particles in the air. When you blink, your eyelids help to remove foreign objects and distribute tears which lubricate your eyes. But, sometimes your eyelids can have problems and need care. Two common conditions that affect your eyelids are chalazia and styes.

A chalazion results from the blockage of one or more of the small oil producing glands (meibomian glands) that are found in the upper and lower eyelids. These blockages trap the oil produced by the glands and cause a lump on the eyelid that is usually about the size of a pea.

These are usually relatively painless. If the chalazion becomes infected, the eyelid can become swollen, inflamed and more painful.

Styes are often confused with chalazia. Styes are infections or abscesses of an eyelid gland near an eyelash root or follicle.

They generally occur nearer to the edge or margin of the eyelid that do chalazia, where they form a red, sore lump similar to a boil or pimple.

In some cases, both chalazia and styes may come to a head and drain on their own without treatment. However, in most instances, they do not.

A chalazion may be treated by applying hot* compresses and/or antibiotic eye drops. In some cases, steroid drugs may be injected into or adjacent to the site of the chalazion. A chalazion may also be treated by surgical incision and drainage when necessary.

Styes may also be treated with hot* compresses. Frequently, antibiotic and/or steroid eye drops or ointment may be needed.

Chalazia and styes most often respond well to treatment. If left untreated, however, the can be uncomfortable, unattractive and can lead to other problems. Occasionally, chalazia and styes recur. If this happens too frequently, your doctor of optometry may recommend additional tests to determine if other health problems may be contributing to their development.

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