• What Are Styes and Chalazia?

    Reviewed By Odalys Mendoza MD
    Edited By David Turbert
    Aug. 18, 2021

    Styes and chalazia are both lumps in or along the edge of an eyelid. Sometimes it may be hard to distinguish between a chalazion and an stye.

    In this article:

    What Is a Stye?

    Photograph of a stye on a young woman's lower left eyelid
    A stye is a red, sore lump near the edge of the eyelid.

    A stye (also called a hordeolum) is a small, red, painful lump that grows from the base of your eyelash or under the eyelid. Most styes are caused by a bacterial infection.

    There are two kinds of styes:

    • External hordeolum: A stye that begins at the base of your eyelash. Most are caused by an infection in the hair follicle. It might look like a pimple.
    • Internal hordeolum: A stye inside your eyelid. Most are caused by an infection in an oil-producing gland in your eyelid.

    You can also get a stye if you have blepharitis. This is a condition that makes your eyelids at the base of the eyelashes red and swollen.

    When you first get a stye, your eyelid is probably red and tender to the touch. Your eye may also feel sore and scratchy.

    What Is a Chalazion?

    Photograph of a chalazion on a young woman's right upper eyelid
    A chalazion is an enlargement of an oil-producing gland in the eyelid.

    A chalazion is a swollen bump on the eyelid. It happens when the eyelid’s oil gland clogs up. It may start as an internal hordeolum (stye). At first, you might not know you have a chalazion as there is little or no pain. But as it grows, your eyelid may get red, swollen, and sometimes tender to touch. If the chalazion gets large, it can press on your eye and cause blurry vision. Rarely, the whole eyelid might swell.

    What Is the Difference Between a Stye and a Chalazion?

    Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a stye and a chalazion.

    A stye is very painful. It often appears at the eyelid’s edge, usually caused by an infected eyelash root. It often swells, sometimes affecting the entire eyelid.

    A chalazion is not usually painful. It is a bump that usually develops farther back on the eyelid than a stye. It is caused by a clogged oil gland. Rarely does it make the entire eyelid swell.

    Stye and Chalazion Symptoms

    Stye symptoms can include:

    A chalazion can develop and you might not see any symptoms. When there are symptoms, they can include:

    • a bump on the eyelid, sometimes becoming red and swollen. Occasionally it can be tender.
    • rarely, an entirely swollen eyelid
    • blurry vision, if the chalazion is large enough to press on the eyeball

    Who Is At Risk for Styes and Chalazia?

    An illustration of blepharitis, where the eyelids become coated with oily particles and bacteria near the base of the eyelashes
    Blepharitis increases the risk of developing a chalazion or stye.

    Anyone can get a stye or chalazion. But you are even more likely to get one if you have:

    • Blepharitis, a problem that affects the edge of your eyelid
    • Had a stye or chalazion before
    • A skin condition, such as acne rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis
    • Diabetes or other medical problems

    Stye and Chalazion Treatment

    Here are ways to treat your stye or chalazion:

    Warm compresses

    Soak a clean washcloth in hot water and hold it to your eyelid for 10–15 minutes at a time, 3–5 times a day. Keep the cloth warm by soaking it in hot water often. For a chalazion, this warm compress helps the clogged oil gland to open and drain. You can help the gland clear itself by gently massaging around the area with your clean finger.

    Antibiotics

    Your ophthalmologist may prescribe an antibiotic for an infected stye.

    Steroid shots

    If your chalazion is very swollen, your ophthalmologist may give you a steroid shot (cortisone) to reduce the swelling.

    Surgery to drain the area

    If your stye or chalazion affects vision or does not go away, you may need to have it drained. This surgery is usually done in the doctor’s office using local anesthesia.

    If a stye or chalazion keeps coming back time after time, your ophthalmologist may biopsy it. This is where a tiny piece of tissue is removed and studied. This helps your ophthalmologist check to see if there is a more serious eye problem.

    Do not squeeze or try to pop a stye or chalazion

    Doing so could spread the infection into your eyelid. Do not wear eye makeup or contact lenses while you have a stye or chalazion.