Copyright 1995 by Larry Bickford. All Rights Reserved.

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The EyeCare Connection

abstracts and answers to commonly asked questions

PLEASE READ THIS: The information contained herein is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and care from qualified, licensed health care providers. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his or her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention. The information is presented here to educate and inform and to guide you to an understanding of cause, prevention as well as treatment.

Styes and Chalazions

Styes: (external hordeolum)

There are many small glands (and the ducts of these glands) in your eyelid. They can become infected or simply clogged and swell , causing pain and discomfort. Sometimes you may see and feel the small nodule. Styes more commonly occur in the upper lid near the lid margin and eyelashes, but can be found in the lower lid as well.

More often than not, they are caused by a staphylococcus bacteria infection in an eyelash follicle or in the associated glands of Zeiss and Moll . Staph is a very common bacteria often present on your skin. Sometimes they over-reproduce causing inflammation.

This is quite similar to a pimple in your skin and the treatment is likewise similar: warm compresses three or more times each day until completely resolved. Most often improvement can be observed within a day or two and complete healing occurs within a week. A stye that rapidly enlarges or opens and drains puss into the eye requires medical attention. Styes may be treated with antibiotic drops and ointments along with warm compresses. This sometimes shortens the recovery time and is recommended for people with on-going chronic recurrence of the condition, those with staph blepheritis (a chronic eye lid infection) and immuno-compromised individuals. Swelling involving more of the lid (not localized like a pimple) that is accompanied by fever requires prompt medical attention.

Internal hordeolum

Essentially this is the same condition as a stye, except that a different, more centrally and internally located gland (meibomian) is the site of the infection. As a result of the imbedded and central lid location, an internal hordeolum is generally more painful than a stye. Treatment is likewise the same, except antibiotic therapy is more often necessary.


These are stye-like swellings in the lid that are usually not directly caused by infection. Chalazions are most often caused by an accumulation of meibomian gland secretions resulting from a blockage of the duct. The sebum (secretions) becomes hardened or encased, causing an often painless (at first) obvious swelling of the eyelid. Occasionally, if the chalazion becomes large enough, it may press on the cornea causing distortion of the tissue, resulting in astigmatism and blurred vision.

Chalazion are more resistant to home treatment than hordeolum. Frequent, warm compresses over a period of weeks are often recommended. There is medical treatment for quicker response and recovery, relief of discomfort, and improvement of the cosmetic effect. Medical treatments include: injection of a corticosteroid solution into the chalazion or incision and removal. A hard or growing mass in the eyelid that does not respond to warm compresses quickly should be referred to an eye doctor.

The above conditions most often resolve without any lasting consequences. Individuals with frequent recurrence should consult with an eye doctor as chronic inflammations can result in cosmetic effects and functional impairment of the eyelids.