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  • Chris Thiagarajah MD

Bump on the eyelid: How to do you distinguish a stye from cancer?


Bump on the eyelid: How to do you distinguish a stye from cancer?

Bumps on the eyelid can be unnerving. They are the most common part of my practice. The most common bump on the eyelid is a stye. The second most common is eyelid cancer. Styes are blockages of the oil glands and eyelid cancers are just that, a form of cancer. If you have a bump on your eyelid how do you know if it is a simple stye or do you have something more serious. There are some general guidelines that can be helpful to distinguish between the two.

First, styes are blockages of the oil glands of the eyelid. When they get blocked, they get backed up and swell. Often it is painful initially and comes out of the blue. The eyelid can get swollen and tender. Often warm compresses can treat eyelid styes.

In contrast, eyelid cancers tend to be slow growing bumps that one sees slowly. There is usually no pain. Signs of eyelid cancer include eyelash loss and bleeding. If you have a growth that bleeds on its own, it is cancer unless proven otherwise. Eyelid cancer is serious and can spread to the eye socket and damage structures.

In summary there are some small but subtle differences between eyelid styes and eyelid cancers. Styes are not dangerous but eyelid cancer is. There is one type of eyelid cancer called sebaceous cell carcinoma that look similar to styes. In fact a stye that doesn’t go away should be evaluated as a sebaceous cell carcinoma. This type of eyelid cancer can kill you.

The best plan is to get an eyelid cancer or stye checked out by an oculoplastic surgeon who can treat it and make sure it goes away. This is the best plan.


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