A stye, or hordeolum, is an infection involving the sebaceous (oil) glands of the eyelids. They are typically caused by bacteria that colonize, or live on, the surface of the eyelid skin.
Styes occur when these bacteria become trapped in oil glands that are blocked or plugged. Sometime medications or hormonal changes can alter the composition of the oil and make it more likely to plug the glands. Styes can affect either the external or internal surface of the eyelid, but they almost always involve the glands at the eyelid margin.
Styes cause swelling and inflammation of the eyelid, making it red, tender to the touch, and sometimes painful. Styes can also cause increased mucous production from the internal surface of the eyelids that can blur vision and cause crusting in the corners of the eyes or at the eyelid margins. Infrequently, the infection can spread to surrounding tissues, a process known as cellulitis. In cases of cellulitis patients may experience fever and swelling can be quite severe and the lids might block vision.
Mild styes can usually be treated conservatively with warm compresses and eyelid hygiene two or three times per day. The warmth helps the oil flow from the glands more freely, and the lid hygiene removes bacteria and other debris that may be clogging the glands. More moderate styes may be treated with topical antibiotic or antibiotic/steroid combination ointments in addition to warm compresses and lid hygiene. Severe styes and cases of cellulitis may require the addition of oral antibiotics. In cases of abscess formation some styes will drain on their own, while others may require surgical drainage.
A chalazion is an accumulation of firm nodular tissue called a “granuloma” that forms inside the eyelids in areas where the oil glands have been inflamed. This inflammation is a reaction to oil that has seeped out of the glands into the surrounding tissue of the eyelid when the glands become plugged. This may occur on its own or following stye formation and treatment. Patients are often left with a firm bump or nodule in the eyelid that is painless or only mildly irritating, however some chalazia may be more symptomatic.
Similar to styes, mild chalazia may be treated with warm compresses and eyelid hygiene. Moderate to severe chalazia are treated with a combination of warm compresses, lid hygiene, and topical or injected steroids. Chronic chalazia usually require surgical treatment with a small incision, usually through the inside surface of the eyelid in order to avoid external scarring, and removal of the granuloma with a small curette. This is a minor procedure that is generally covered by insurance and can almost always be performed in the office. Antibiotic ointment is usually used in the eye a few times a day for one week following the procedure.
If you would like more information on the treatment of stye’s or chalazion’s, contact one of our Oklahoma offices today. Call (405) 733-4545 to schedule a consultation with one of our eye care specialists!