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A STYE is the common term used for an acute infection of a hair follicle or gland at the edge of the eyelid. The Staphylococcus germ usually causes it. The correct medical term is EXTERNAL HORDEOLUM.

These are very common in children, in those with chronic lid infections such as ocular rosacea, in diabetics, and sometimes in debilitated patients with poor hygiene. Styes tend to be painful, especially in the early stages when swelling and redness are prominent. With time, they often form an abscess and a point on the skin; more rarely facing inward toward the eyeball itself. They are not contagious!


TREATMENT consists of frequent hot packs which usually speed up the white head formation and pointing to the surface. Hot packs should be applied to the area for a minimum of 10 minutes, four times a day. Hot packs may be purchased, or simply made from a clean white sock filled with dried beans or rice. These can be heated in a microwave, wrapped with a hot, wet facecloth, and applied to the closed eye for treatments.

Luckily, most chalazion stay small and are just a minor annoyance and some can be treated at home with warm compresses and gentle massaging of the affected area to loosen the plugged oil gland. Sometimes they resolve on their own within a few weeks, but when they persist, or become encapsulated by the body’s defense mechanism, a steroid injection will help make it disappear. If the chalazion resists these treatments, a surgical incision or excision can be made.

In the worst cases, the chalazion can be surgically drained and/or removed in the doctor's office. If the chalazion returns or if you have had them over a long period of time, your doctor may send the moved chalazion to a laboratory to be tested.

Antibiotics may be helpful to decrease the number of germs present once the gland bursts and may prevent the spread of infection. Plucking out the lash from the middle of a stye will often promote its drainage. Rarely is surgical drainage or lancing necessary. For chronic problems, newer therapies include topical azithromycin, i.e. AzaSite, as well as oral antibiotics. These may be helpful in maintaining comfort. Scarring is a very rare consequence of styes.



A common complication with an INTERNAL HORDEOLUM (an infection of the glands inside the lid), is a secondary PRESEPTAL CELLULITIS, or inflammation of the soft tissue around the eye. Cellulitis will not respond to topical therapy. Oral antibiotics are necessary, with hospitalization needed for the worst cases.

PREVENTION is important! By following careful lid hygiene techniques, styes may be kept to a minimum. Often the application of a warm washcloth nightly to the lids followed by lid massage will decrease the infection rate. Topical lid antibiotic medications like AzaSite may be used concurrently to create a greater effect. Patients with this condition should know that it carries a low risk for complications, but that it is important to report any swelling around the eyelid area to rule out a cellulitis.

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