Chalazion and Stye


Styes and chalazia are small lumps that can arise in or along the eyelid. Often bothersome and sometimes painful, styes and chalazia1 are generally not considered serious eye conditions. Although chalazia and styes appear similar, they have some characteristics that make them medically distinct.

Chalazion and Stye

Formation and Symptoms of Styes and Chalazia

Both styes and chalazia can be caused by blepharitis–a chronic inflammation of the upper and lower eyelids–or another generalized swelling condition. However, the way in which they form differs; they also tend to be situated on different areas of the eyelid.


The term stye is often used to describe any localized swelling of the eyelid. However, the more specific medical term for a stye is hordeolum, which refers to an inflammation and/or infection of the eyelash follicles or the oil glands (meibomian glands).

  • Appearance: A red bump near the base of the eyelashes, usually visible on the outer surface of the eyelid. In some cases, a stye can develop under the eyelid (called an internal hordeolum2).
  • Why it forms: A stye is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in a hair follicle; an internal hordeolum occurs due to an infection of an oil gland in the interior of the eyelid. A long-term internal hordeolum can develop into a chalazion.
  • Symptoms: A stye most often presents itself as a painful or sore lump. Other symptoms include the sensation that a foreign body is in the eye, sensitivity to light, tenderness of the eyelid and tearing.


The term chalazion is derived from a Greek word meaning "small lump." Also called meibomian cysts, chalazia develop when an oil-producing gland–located in the upper and lower eyelids–becomes clogged.

  • Appearance: A lump that is most prominent on the inside of the eyelid. Chalazia tend to develop farther from the edge of the eyelid than styes.
  • Why it forms: A chalazion, unlike a stye, is not caused by a bacterial infection. A chalazion occurs if the oil (sebum) becomes too thick or the meibomian gland opening becomes too small for oil to properly drain. The result is a blocked gland that forms a bump.
  • Symptoms. About quarter of chalazia are asymptomatic. Sometimes, however, a chalazion may become red, inflamed and tender. If a chalazion becomes infected, the entire eyelid may swell, causing some interference with vision.

Risk Factors and Potential Complications

Anyone can develop a stye or chalazion3. If you have a history of blepharitis, you may be more susceptible to the formation of styes or chalazia.

Styes, and chalazia in particular, often resolve themselves. However, if a bacterial infection spreads to surrounding eye tissues, it can lead to an inflammation called preseptal cellulitis. If this occurs, antibiotic treatment will be necessary to control the infection.

Diagnosis of Styes and Chalazia at Beach Eye Medical Group, Orange County

A Beach Eye Medical Group in Huntington Beach, Orange County our ophthalmologist can clinically diagnose a stye or chalazion by carefully examining your eyelid. If a stye or chalazion has recurred in the same place, our ophthalmologist may suggest a biopsy to rule out more serious problems. A biopsy involves the surgical removal of small tissue sample so it can be examined by a pathologist.

Treatment of Styes and Chalazia

Styes and chalazia and usually respond well to treatment. A stye or chalazion can be treated with one or a combination of the following:

  • Warm compresses. Soak a clean washcloth in hot water and apply the cloth to the lid for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a day until the stye or chalazion disappears. You should repeatedly soak the cloth in hot water to maintain adequate heat. With a chalazion, when the clogged gland opens, you may notice increased discharge from the eye. It is important not to squeeze or forcefully drain the fluid in a stye or chalazion.
  • Topical and oral antibiotics. An antibiotic ointment may be prescribed if a stye does not improve after treatment with warm compresses or if it recurs. If chalazion becomes infected with bacteria, a course of topical or oral antibiotics may also be given.
  • Steroid injections. To reduce excessive swelling, a steroid (cortisone) injection can be given.
  • Surgical removal. If a large stye or chalazion does not heal after other treatments or if it affects your vision, you may need to have it drained by an eye specialist. The procedure can be performed at Beach Eye Medical Group office.

If you have a stye or chalazion that is exceptionally painful or needs to be drained, contact doctors at Beach Eye Medical Group in Huntington Beach, Orange County to schedule an examination.

1 What Is a Stye? Available:
2 Interventions for acute internal hordeolum. Available:
3 What Are Chalazia and Styes? Available:

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