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What's That Bump By Your Eye? A Guide To Styes And Chalazia

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Do you suddenly have a bump along the edge of your eyelid? Tender, red bumps on the eyelids are usually either styes or chalazia. Neither is particularly harmful, but as they can be uncomfortable, it is important to know a bit about what causes them and how to deal with them.

What is the difference between a stye and a chalazion?

Styes and chalazia are very similar, and it is often hard to tell which one you have. Luckily, the recommended treatments are the same, so if you cannot tell, there's no real harm. A stye appears along the edge of the eyelid as a red, enlarged bump. It's actually an infected eyelash follicle. A chalazion develops a bit further from the edge of the eyelid and is actually a clogged oil gland in the eyelid.

Styes are typically more painful than chalazia, since they tend to press on the eye more. However, a chalazion can also be sore.

What causes these problems?

Both are caused by clogged glands. When an eyelash follicle becomes clogged, a tiny infection (similar to that inside a pimple) develops in its interior. This is a stye. When an oil gland on the eyelid becomes clogged, the oil builds up inside of it (but an infection is not likely to occur), leading to a chalazion. Apart from keeping your eyelids clean, there's really nothing you can do to protect against styes and chalazia. They're just something that happens sometimes – and some people are more susceptible than others.

How are styles and chalazia treated?

Usually, these conditions resolve on their own with no outside treatment. You can hold a warm compress over your eye to ease some of the soreness if you desire. Within a few days, a stye will break open and drain. It will then heal over the course of a week or so.  A chalazion won't usually pop open, but the body will slowly reabsorb the oil from its interior over a period of several weeks.

If your stye or chalazion does not drain or begin reducing in size within a few days, contact an eye doctor. He or she may need to lance and drain the style or chalazion. This is not as scary as it sounds. As soon as the bump is drained, you will feel a sense of relief.  In the case of a stye, you may also be prescribed antibiotic eye drops to fight the infection and promote healing.