What is styes and chalazia?

Styes and Chalazia

Styes in children: Overview

A stye is an infection in small oil glands at the root of an eyelash or in the eyelids. This causes a tender red lump on or near the edge of the eyelid. Styes may break open and drain a tiny amount of pus. They usually are not contagious.

Styes almost always clear up on their own in a few days or weeks. Putting a warm, wet compress on the area can help it open and heal. A stye rarely needs antibiotics or other treatment.

After your child has had a stye, they're more likely to get another stye.


A stye is an infection in the tiny oil glands that surround the base of each eyelash along the edge of the eyelid. A stye begins as a red, tender bump, and looks like a small pimple.

A stye usually comes to a head (clear or yellow fluid collects in the stye) in about 3 days, after which it breaks open and drains and heals in about a week. Though the cause of a stye is often unknown, it can develop from rubbing the eyes or using products near the eyelid that can irritate the eye, both of which can transfer bacteria to the skin and cause infection.

Usually, home treatment is all that is needed to treat a stye. This includes not wearing eye makeup or contact lenses; letting the stye break open by itself; applying warm, wet compresses to the eye area; and using nonprescription medicines.

What are the symptoms of a stye or chalazion?

A stye usually starts as a red bump that looks like a pimple along the edge of the eyelid. The eyelid may become swollen and painful, and the eye may water. A chalazion starts as a firm lump or cyst under the skin of the eyelid. Unlike styes, chalazia often don't hurt.

How is a stye or chalazion treated?

Home treatment is all that is needed for most styes and chalazia.

  • Apply warm, wet compresses for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 6 times a day. This can help the area heal faster.
  • Use an over-the-counter treatment. Try an ointment (such as Stye), solution (such as Bausch and Lomb Eye Wash), or medicated pads (such as Ocusoft Lid Scrub).
  • Let the stye or chalazion open on its own. Don't squeeze or open it.

If a stye is not getting better with home treatment, talk to your doctor. You may need a prescription for antibiotic eye ointment or eyedrops. You may need to take antibiotic pills if infection has spread to the eyelid or eye.

If a stye gets very large, the doctor may need to pierce (lance) it so it can drain and heal. Do not try to lance it yourself.

If a chalazion does not go away or if it gets worse, a doctor may recommend an injection of steroid medicine or surgery to remove it.

What can you do to prevent styes and chalazia?

Here are some things you can do to prevent styes and chalazia.

  • Don't rub your eyes. This can irritate your eyes and let in bacteria. If you need to touch your eyes, wash your hands first.
  • Protect your eyes from dust and air pollution when you can. For example, wear safety glasses when you do dusty chores like raking or mowing the lawn.
  • Remove eye makeup before you go to sleep. Replace eye makeup, especially mascara, at least every 6 months. Bacteria can grow in makeup.
  • If you get styes or chalazia often, wash your eyelids regularly with a little bit of baby shampoo mixed in warm water.
  • Treat any inflammation or infection of the eyelid promptly.

How is a stye or chalazion diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose these problems by closely examining the eyelid. It may be hard to tell the difference between a stye and a chalazion. If there is a hard lump inside the eyelid, the doctor will probably diagnose it as a chalazion.

How can you care for your child who has a stye?

  • Allow the stye to break open by itself. Do not squeeze or try to pop open a stye.
  • Put a warm, moist washcloth or piece of gauze on your child's eye for about 10 minutes, 3 to 6 times a day. This helps a stye heal faster. The washcloth or piece of gauze should be clean. Wet it with warm tap water. Do not use hot water, and do not heat the wet washcloth or gauze in a microwave oven. It can become too hot and burn the eyelid.
  • Always wash your hands before and after you treat or touch your child's eyes.
  • If the doctor gave you medicine, have your child use it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Do not share towels, pillows, or washcloths while your child has a stye.

To prevent styes

  • Try to keep your child from rubbing their eyes.
  • Keep your child's hands clean and away from their eyes, especially if your child or a close contact has a stye or a skin infection elsewhere on the body.
  • Have your child remove eye makeup before going to sleep.
  • Eye makeup can spread germs. Do not share eye makeup, and replace it at least every 6 months.

What causes a stye or chalazion?

Styes are caused by a bacterial infection. Usually the bacteria grow in the root (follicle) of an eyelash. An internal hordeolum is caused by infection in one of the tiny oil glands inside the eyelid.

A chalazion forms when an oil gland in the eyelid becomes blocked. If an internal hordeolum doesn't drain and heal, it can turn into a chalazion.

What are styes and chalazia?

Styes and chalazia are lumps in or along the edge of an eyelid. They may be painful or annoying, but they are rarely serious. Most will go away on their own without treatment.

  • A stye is an infection that causes a tender red lump on the eyelid. Most styes occur along the edge of the eyelid. When a stye occurs inside the eyelid, it is called an internal hordeolum (say "hor-dee-OH-lum").
  • A chalazion (say "kuh-LAY-zee-on") is a lump in the eyelid. Chalazia (plural) may look like styes, but they are usually larger and may not hurt.

Styes and chalazia may be related to blepharitis, a common problem that causes inflammation of the eyelids.

Styes in children: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of an eye infection, such as:
    • Pus or thick discharge coming from the eye.
    • Redness or swelling around the eye.
    • A fever.
  • Your child has vision changes.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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