Chalazion or Stye: How You Can Tell the Difference

Chalazions and styes both cause red bumps around the eye, and they’re easy to confuse. The key difference is that styes are infections, and chalazions are not. Instead, chalazions happen when oil glands become blocked, and are like pimples.

However, in most cases, you can treat chalazions and styes in the same way, with warm compresses at home. If at-home care doesn’t work, or if the chalazion or stye affects your vision, you should visit the eye doctor.

What Is a Stye?

A stye happens from an infection in the root of an eyelash. It is a painful red bump that often develops a small pus spot at the center. Sometimes, the entire eyelid can swell up.

Usually, styes develop just on the outside of the eyelid. However, sometimes they can develop inside the eyelid. This leads to a sore and scratchy feeling or a sensation of having something in the eye.

In rare cases, styes can grow so large that they press on the eye and affect vision.

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What Is a Chalazion?

A chalazion happens when an oil gland gets blocked, usually with dead skin cells; it can also result from a type of internal stye. It is a red bump that may cause pain (or only slight pain), especially in the first day or two. It tends to swell over the following week.

In rare cases, chalazions can swell so much that they press on the eye and cause blurry vision.

Chalazion or Stye — How Can I Tell the Difference?

One way to determine if you have a stye or chalazion is the location. Styes often occur along the eyelash line. Chalazions are usually a bit further away from the eye on the top eyelid or under the bottom eyelash.

Another difference is that styes are usually more painful than chalazions. Finally, while styes often have yellowish pus, chalazions do not.

Chalazion vs. Stye Treatment

Chalazion treatments and stye treatments are very similar. In both cases, warm compresses help to drain them. For most people, warm compresses are enough to resolve the chalazion or stye.

For the warm compress technique, you simply get a clean washcloth, run it under hot water, and wring it out. Then, hold the warm cloth to your eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, taking care to reheat the cloth as needed.

Repeat this process at least three times a day until the bump goes away. Do not pop or squeeze the stye or chalazion, which can make it worse.

In some cases, chalazions and styes require medical treatment.

See an eye doctor about a stye if it doesn’t go away on its own (this usually happens within four days). Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops, and rarely, surgery may prove necessary to drain the stye. You should also see a doctor right away if the redness and swelling expand away from the eye.

Chalazions take longer to resolve with hot compresses — it may take weeks before they disappear fully. However, they should become less painful after the first few days.

If the chalazion doesn’t go away after several weeks, you should see a doctor. You should also see a doctor right away if the chalazion is so big that it’s causing vision changes. Your doctor can drain the chalazion or may inject a steroid medication that reduces the swelling.

If you get chalazions or styes often, using warm compresses nightly may lower your risk of recurrence. Talk to your eye doctor about whether this is right for you.

American Optometric Association. Chalazion. Link

American Optometric Association. Hordeolum (stye). Link

Kierstan Boyd. What Are Chalazia and Styes? American Academy of Ophthalmology. Link

Dr. James Garrity. Chalazion and stye (hordeolum). Merck Manual Consumer Version. Link

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