A stye or hordeolum is an infection of the sebaceous glands at the base of the eyelashes. It is a small boil or abscess caused by an infection of one of the tiny oil-producing glands located at the base of each eyelash. A person who develops one stye may have frequent recurrences. Patients who have multiple styes, or who have frequent recurrences of styes, should be seen by a general physician to rule out diabetes mellitus, which is recognized as predisposing individuals to multiple and recurrent infections of the eyelids. A stye can be secondary, caused by blepharitis. A blocked oil gland near the eye, a chalazion, is often mistaken for a stye. Styes are not harmful to vision, and they can occur at any age. A stye initially brings pain, redness, tenderness and swelling in the area, then a small pimple appears. Sometimes just the immediate area is swollen; other times the entire eyelid swells.
Typically, a stye begins with a sensitivity to light, excessive flowing of tears, and the sensation of a foreign body in the eye. Most styes will drain on their own though this may be accelerated with a hot or warm compress. Styes typically resolve within one week with treatment. Styes that appear on the eyelid are usually deeper, more painful and last longer than those appearing on the eyelash. Generally, the stye enlarges over several days as the infected follicle fills with pus; then it usually subsides within three to seven days. In the early stages, chalazia may be treated at home with the repeated use of warm compresses for 15 – 20 minutes followed by several minutes of light lid massage. This helps to reduce the swelling and makes the lid more comfortable. In some cases, the eye doctor may cut into the swollen area to promote drainage of pus.
Causes of Stye
Styes are generally caused by a staphylococcus aureus bacteria infection and are particularly common in infants, though people of any age may experience them. This bacterium is often found in the nose, and it’s easily transferred to the eye by rubbing first your nose, then your eye. A stye can be secondary, caused by blepharitis. A blocked oil gland near the eye, a chalazion, is often mistaken for a stye. Adults are affected more often than children. The condition may occur at an increased frequency within certain families and in children with Down’s syndrome.
Symptoms of Stye
A stye usually starts as a sensitive, red, swollen area on the edge of the eyelid at the base of an eyelash. An internal hordeolum has the same symptoms as a stye, but it grows deeper inside the eyelid.A chalazion grows more slowly, deeper inside the eyelid than a stye. Though it usually does not cause pain, a chalazion may last for several months. It may form a firm lump under the skin of the eyelid, and the inflammation and swelling may spread to the area surrounding the eye.
Treatment of Stye
In the early stages, chalazia may be treated at home. Most styes will drain on their own though this may be accelerated with a hot or warm compress. Styes typically resolve within one week with treatment. Chalazions may be treated with any one or a combination of antibiotic or steroid drops or injections; warm compresses for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day; gentle massage to express the glandular secretions; or surgical drainage. Treatment for an internal hordeolum or chalazion is usually the same. However, if a chalazion becomes big enough that it interferes with vision, additional treatment may be needed.