Eyelid Health – Styes and Chalazions

It happens to many of us. You begin your bathroom routine when you notice a small bump or lump around your eye. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes not, but it can be alarming to discover when it may not have been present the day before. You may wonder if this is notable enough to consult a doctor, or if this is something that may just go away on its own.

Regardless of the cause, these bumps are always worth a consult with your eye care professional.

What is a Stye? What is a Chalazion?

So what exactly are these bumps?


photo of styeA stye is a small bump that typically grows at the base of your eyelash, where the root follicle would be, or can be under the eyelid itself. It is also sometimes called a hordeolum. The bump is usually painful to the touch, red from inflammation, and may cause the affected eye to feel scratchy and sore. Styes are typically caused by bacterial infection. When the stye is external and visible at the base of the eyelashes, it has the appearance of a small pimple, and is usually an infection of the hair follicle. When a stye grows internally under the eyelid, it is most often caused by an infection of one of the oil-producing glands in your eyelid.


photo of chalazionA chalazion might appear like an internal stye, but the route cause is different. Appearing like a swollen lump under the eyelid, a chalazion grows where there is a blockage of those oil glands within the eyelid, usually a little further back from the edge of the lid. There is usually little to no pain as a chalazion develops, although if it is allowed to grow the area will gradually get redder, more swollen and may become tender to the touch. As it occurs under the eyelid, it may press on the eye and cause blurry vision if it gets large enough.

What are the treatment options?

At first glance, one might appear indistinguishable from the other, especially when trying to distinguish between an internal stye and a chalazion. This is why it’s important to visit your eyecare professional and have the root cause properly diagnosed, as the treatment can vary depending on the initial cause.

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If the issue is because of a lockage of a gland or follicle, a care regimen of using a warm compress may be recommended. By using either a clean washcloth soaked with hot water or a dedicated eye mask with beads that can be heated in the microwave, a warm compress can soften any blockages and allow for gentle massaging to break up the clog. This treatment usually requires multiple sessions throughout the day to be effective, usually 3 to 5 minutes at a time. Using a dedicated eye mask, such as the I-Med I-Relief therapeutic mask, is usually more effective, as it can maintain a consistent temperature much longer than a washcloth while still being machine washable and easy to reuse.

If the underlying cause is an infection of a follicle or gland, then your eye care professional may prescribe a short regime of antibiotics to clear the bacterial infection. Warm compresses are usually advised as well to help clear any blockage or debris that may have built up as the infection developed.

In all cases, it is recommended that an eye care professional is consulted for proper diagnoses and treatment. You should never attempt to pop a stye or chalazion and should avoid using eye makeup or wearing contact lenses until the stye or chalazion has fully cleared.

Our optometrists are regularly available if you are in need of diagnosis and treatment for a suspected stye or chalazion. Please reach out to either of our locations to book your eye exam: 360 Eyecare – Rosedale or 360 Eyecare – Beaches.