Chalazion (Stye)

What is a Chalazion?

A chalazion refers to the bump or mass in the eyelid caused by the inflammatory swelling surrounding an oil-producing gland in the eyelid called the meibomian gland. The swelling is ususally away from the edge of the eyelid. These are not serious and many will respond well to home treatment. We are not sure why most chalazia (plural of chalazion) occur. However, those individuals with chronic blepharitis are predisposed to the development of chalazia.

What is a Stye?

A stye, or hordeolum, is a very small, but often painful, inflammatory swelling caused by an infection at the edge of the eyelid involving the eyelash follicles and the surrounding tissue.

What causes a chalazion?

The tiny tube, or orifice, draining the meibomian gland becomes obstructed preventing the natural outlet for the secretion of the oil. The gland’s oil continues to accumulate causing the gland to enlarge. If the obstruction persists, the tissue may rupture into the lid causing inflammation, more lid swelling, and sometimes discomfort. In an attempt to limit the spread of the inflammation, a membraneous wall or capsule will surround the inflamed gland. Sometimes the swelling may point anteriorly toward the skin or posteriorly into the subconjuntival space. Either may allow for spontaneous drainage. However, if absorbtion or drainage does not occur, the inflamation will eventually resolve but leaves a painless, hard lump visible in the lid. Antibiotics are not often indicated as the cause of a chalzion is not an infection.

What causes a stye?

Although a stye may develop without any apparent predisposing factor, eyelid margin inflammation associated with blepharitis, accumulation of excessive discharge caused by conjunctivitis, or poor eyelid hygiene associated with frequent eye rubbing are common causes of a stye.

How is a chalazion treated?

As soon as one suspects that a chalazion may be starting, warm compresses or warmed water balloon should be applied. Heat the compress or balloon till warm but not hot. Re-heat as necessary to maintain warmth. The purpose of the moist warmth is to liquefy the thickened oil in the gland in hopes of encouraging drainage and absorption. Apply directly to the involved area. It is best done in short 2 to 5 minutes applications used as often as possible the first few days and then 4 times a day to complete a full week.

How is a stye treated?

As soon as one suspects that a stye may be starting, warm compresses or warmed water balloon should be applied. Heat the compress or balloon till warm but not hot. Re-heat as necessary to maintain warmth. Apply directly to the involved area. It is best done in short 2 to 5 minutes applications used as often as possible the first few days and then 4 times a day till resolved. Topical ophthalmic antibiotics may be helpful. Treat the discomfort using your desired over-the-counter analgesic. Most styes resolve in about a week.

What is a chalazion does not go away?

If the chalazion does not resolve after the first month, it is unlikely to improve further. It is at this time that surgical drainage is recommended. This is a short procedure done in the operating room under anesthesia.

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