NYU Langone ophthalmologists, or eye specialists, are skilled at diagnosing and treating styes, a common condition. A stye is a red bump, resembling a pimple, that can form on the upper or lower eyelid. This bump, also known as a hordeolum, occurs when one of the oil glands that line your eyelid becomes blocked and then infected with bacteria.
A stye can also occur if a hair follicle at the base of your eyelash becomes infected. The infection causes the oil gland to swell and redden. The resulting bump is tender to the touch.
Styes can be painful, but they usually resolve on their own or with simple home treatment. Rarely, they become severely infected or persist despite treatment. If this occurs, they may require surgical drainage.
The cause of most styes is unknown, though stress and a lack of sleep increase risk. Poor eye hygiene, such as not removing eye makeup, can also cause a stye. Blepharitis, a chronic inflammation of the eyelids, may also put you at risk of developing a stye.
A chalazion is a blockage and inflammation of an oil gland in the eyelid that’s not caused by infection. The term “chalazion” is often used interchangeably with “stye” because the two conditions look alike—they both produce a red bump—making it hard for doctors to distinguish them. They are treated similarly.
Like a stye, a chalazion may be red and tender when first forming. It may become large and painful, weighing on the eyelid and temporarily obstructing vision.
A chalazion might simply go away, but it can persist. If it fails to respond to weeks or even months of treatment, surgery may be necessary.
It’s unclear why chalazia develop. Stress, fatigue, and blepharitis have been associated with their formation.
Your ophthalmologist can diagnose a stye or a chalazion simply by looking at it or looking under your eyelid.
Further testing is not usually necessary unless unusual characteristics are present. These may include distortion of the structures surrounding the eyelid, such as the tear ducts, loss of eyelashes, or appearance of a stye or chalazion in an unusual place.
Your doctor chooses a treatment based on how long you’ve had a stye or a chalazion. If the bump has just started forming, your doctor may recommend watching and waiting, to see if it goes away on its own. He or she may also suggest treating it at home with simple remedies.
If you’ve had a stye or chalazion for one or two months and it hasn’t responded to treatments at home, your doctor may consider surgical draining.