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A stye or hordeolum is an infection of the sebaceous glands at the base of the eyelashes. Styes are similar to chalazia, but tend to be of smaller size and feel much more painful and usually produce no lasting damage.

Care should be taken to avoid touching the eye or sharing cosmetics, towels, or washcloths. Styes will last up to 3 weeks without treatment, with treatment up to a week.


A chalazion is a cyst in the eyelid that is caused by inflammation of a blocked meibomian gland. Chalazions differ from styes (hordeolums) in that they are usually painless, apart from the tenderness caused when they swell up, and in size (chalazia tend to be larger than styes). A chalazion may eventually disappear on its own after a few months, though more often than not, some treatment is necessary.


The primary eye care treatment is application of warm compresses for 10 to 20 minutes at least 4 times a day. This may soften the hardened oils blocking the duct and promote drainage and healing.

Topical antibiotic eye drops or ointment are sometimes used for the initial acute infection. Chalazia will often disappear without further treatment within a few months and virtually all will reabsorb within two years.

If a chalazion continues to enlarge, or fail to settle within a few months, it may be surgically removed using local anesthesia. This is usually done from underneath the eyelid to avoid a scar on the skin.

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