What is a Stye?
A stye, also called a hordeolum, is an inflamed oil gland on the margin of the eyelid around the eyelashes. Styes are one of the most common diseases of the eye. It may appear as a red, swollen nodule that resembles a pimple in appearance and can be tender and warm to the touch. A stye can be on the internal or external surface of the eyelid. A stye is a bacterial infection and sometimes mucopurulent material can be released from the nodule. If a stye is long-standing and inactive, it is called a chalazion.
A chalazia either resolves or may progress to a granular formation inside a painless eyelid nodule. Chalazia can become large and can cause ptosis (eyelid droop). A large chalazion may interfere with vision and put pressure on and alter the shape of the cornea, leading to induced astigmatism or a reduction in the superior visual field.
- A stye, also called a hordeolum, is an inflamed oil gland of the eyelid margin.
- The glands of the eyelid can be obstructed and inflamed by bacteria or mites present on the skin.
- Typical treatment involves warm compresses, eyelid scrubs and sometimes oral antibiotics if acute infection.
Understanding a Stye
A stye is caused by oil obstruction of a meibomian gland and/or inflammation by normal bacteria or mites (demodex) from the eyelid skin. The infection occurs due to thickening, drying, or stasis of the Zeis, Moll, or Meibomian gland secretions of the eyelids. Staphylococcal bacteria are the most common causes of eyelid infections. Styes are similar to acne, and may drain and heal without treatment. Incidence rates are unknown because most are not reported.
Risk Factors for a Stye
There is no correlation in stye prevalance between race, sex, or gender. Adults may be more prone due to the increased viscosity of the sebum (gland oil). Patients with conditions such as dry eye, blepharitis, seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, diabetes, and elevated lipids are also at increased risk for stye development.
Symptoms of a Stye
- Painful swelling of the eyelid
- Lid edema
- Redness of the lid
- Foreign body sensation
Diagnosing a Stye
An eye doctor can diagnose a stye by examining the lids and eyelashes. The physician may have to evert the lid. A slit lamp exam reveals a localized, tender, red, elevated area with a pointed nodule either on the inner or outer side of the eyelid. Any pain on eye movements with periorbital swelling and redness is indicative of orbital cellulitis and requires more aggressive management and treatment.
Common treatments for a stye includes warm compresses, over-the-counter topical medications and lid scrubs, antibiotics ointments and lid massages. Sometimes oral antibiotics may be indicated. Treatment for both internal and external hordeolum is the same. The purpose of these interventions is to reduce healing time while relieving the associated symptoms. Interventions should be provided during the first week after stye onset. After one week, the stye may resolve on its own or may require surgical incision and drainage.