Styes and Chalazia 101

Woman rubs her eye

Do you know the difference between a stye and a chalazion? How about whether either eye condition is severe enough to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist?

If you happened to catch our previous blog post about adult eye infections to watch out for, you probably have an idea. However, in this blog post, we will take a closer look at the differences between a stye and a chalazion, explore what causes them, discuss how they’re diagnosed and treated, and educate you about how they can be prevented.

What Are Styes and Chalazia?

Styes and chalazia are prevalent eye conditions but rarely serious. These lumps in or along the eyelid aren’t generally painful, but they can be annoying—and they can occur in both adults and children. They typically go away without treatment within several days, seldom lasting longer than a few weeks. However, that always doesn’t mean that you can ignore them.

Styes vs. Chalazia

  • Typically occurring along the edge of the eyelid, styes are infections that cause tender red lumps. Styes can occasionally occur inside the eyelid. When they do, they’re referred to as an internal hordeolum.
  • Chalazia are red, swollen lumps in the eyelid caused by a blocked oil gland. Sometimes mistaken for styes, they’re usually larger.

Both eye conditions may be related to blepharitis, a common problem that causes inflammation of the eyelids.

What Causes Styes and Chalazia?

A bacterial infection, usually growing in the root of an eyelash, causes styes. When they occur in one of the tiny oil glands inside your eyelid, that’s an internal hordeolum. When it doesn’t drain and heal properly, an internal hordeolum can turn into a chalazion.

Chalazia form when the fluid in the oil glands of the eyelid becomes blocked and thickens.

What Are the Symptoms?


Styes often start out looking like red bumps along the edge of the eyelid. Your eyelid may become swollen and painful as they grow and may cause your eye to water. Most styes swell for about three days before they break open and drain. Styes usually heal in about a week.


Typically beginning as a firm lump or cyst under the eyelid skin, chalazia, unlike styes, do not usually hurt. Though they grow more slowly than styes, chalazia can affect your vision if they get large enough. Also, swelling and inflammation may spread to the area surrounding your eye.

How Are Styes and Chalazia Diagnosed?

Your eye doctor will closely examine the eyelid to diagnose these eye conditions properly and advise treatment options. There may be some necessary testing required of you by your optometrist, including:

  • An external examination of your eye, including lid structure, skin texture, and eyelash appearance.
  • Evaluation of the lid margins, the eyelash base, and oil gland openings using bright light and magnification.

How Are Styes and Chalazia Treated?

For most styes and chalazia, home treatment will do the trick. These remedies include applying warm compresses throughout the day and the use of over-the-counter ointments, solutions, or mediated pads. It’s also recommended that you stop wearing eye makeup or contact lenses until the affected area fully heals.

Please see your optometrist if a stye doesn’t get better with home treatment. Your optometrist may prescribe you an antibiotic eye ointment or eye drops. If an infection has spread to the eyelid or eye, you may need antibiotic pills.

If a stye gets too large, your doctor may need to lance it to so it can drain and heal. Please don’t attempt to puncture the stye on your own.

When chalazia don’t go away or if they worsen, your optometrist may recommend an injection of steroid medicine or eye surgery to remove it.

How Can Styes and Chalazia Be Prevented?

Looking for ways to help prevent styes or chalazia and maintain good eye health? We’ve got you covered. First, don’t rub your eyes. Doing so can irritate your eyes and let in bacteria. If you must touch your eyes, always remember first to wash your hands.

Also, remember to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes when you do dusty chores such as mowing the lawn or raking. Bacteria can grow in makeup, so be sure to replace eye makeup, especially mascara, at least every six months.

Think You Might Have a Stye Or Chalazion? Schedule an Eye Exam with An Optometrist!

If you think you have any type of vision problem, including styes or chalazia, don’t hesitate to have a comprehensive eye evaluation performed by an eye doctor Lancaster, PA. Here at Campus Eye Center, we are home to some of the best eye and vison care in the region!

Get in touch to schedule an eye exam with Campus Eye Center today. Our doctors can help you detect and treat and manage your stye or chalazia or other eye diseases so that you can live better by seeing better.