top of page

Styes or Chalazion

A stye or chalazion is a blockage of the oil gland of the eyelid. Often the are painful, come on suddenly. Slow growths can be cancer and should be examined by Dr Thiagarajah. Stye treatment for Denver patients are performed in the office at Emerson Street. Below are the basic questions concerning styes. 



What is a stye?


A stye is simply a blockage of the oil glands on the eyelid. On each eyelid we have a number of oil glands that secrete oil onto the surface of our eye. This oil helps lubricate the eye along with reduce the evaporation of the tears we produce. Sometimes, these oil glands will get blocked. When that happens the oil glands will get backed up and swell. The surrounding eyelid tissue will get red and often tender. This is why commonly patients will believe that they have an infection. That is usually not the case. Stye and chalazion are interchangeable terms that patients such as the ones I see in Denver often use. Stye is more of the lay term and most physicians will use the term chalazion. 


A couple facts that are important to know. 


First, you can't catch a stye from anyone or give a stye to anyone. It is not transmittable. No one catches drandruff from others and styes are the same way. 


Secondly, makeup or contact lenses do not cause styes so there is no need to throw them away. 


Third, some people are prone to chalazion or styes the same way some people are prone to dandruff


Fourth, just because you have never had a stye before doesn't mean you can't start developing them at a later age. I have had patients who have never had a stye who start getting them in their 30s, 40s,50s or even 60s.


What is the initial treatment for a stye?


The best initial treatment for a stye is warm compresses four times a day for 4 weeks. The key thing for the warm compresses are that they need to be done four times a day for about 10 to 15 minutes each. Often patients find that frequency difficult but I would recommend doing one set in the morning when one wakes, one when you are back from work or school, again after dinner and lastly before you go to bed. The best technique is by filling a dress sock with rice and putting it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds so it is warm but not too hot. Hold it over the closed eye for 10 to 15 minutes. Patients will sometimes use a wet warm washcloth but our patients have found that the washcloth gets cold very frequently and needs to be rewarmed often. You will not see any changes within the first couple days but eventually the chalazion should relieve itself.


What if the stye doesn't go away? Will Dr T remove it?


After four weeks, the stye can be excised or removed in the office. 


How long does Stye Removal take?


The procedure takes about 15 minutes. 


Do I need someone to be with me for my Stye Removal?


Generally no. Usually you can drive home with a patch on the eye.


What are the risks of  Stye Removal?


The biggest risk of stye removal surgery is recurrence. Rare risks include vision loss or double vision. Additionally, there are the risks of bleeding,scarring, infection, and need for more surgery.


When can I resume normal activities after Stye Removal?


Most patients can resume normal activities roughly 2  days after Stye removal. 


When do the stitches come out after Stye Removal?


There are no stitches for stye removal so none need to be removed. 


How do I differentiate between a stye and eyelid cancer?


One of the most important things to differentiates is a stye from eyelid cancer. In fact one of the most critical questions on ophthalmologists board exams for licensing is recognizing that a type of cancer called sebaceous cell carcinoma can masquerade as a  recurrent stye. Sebaceous cell carcinoma can metastasize and kill a patient so this is obviously something that should not be treated with warm compresses and repeated draining. 


There are several characteristics from the presentation that usually separate a stye or chalazio. In my patients in Denver where i treat styes, chalazions and all types of skin cancer, from the history and appearance I can usually separate which is a simple stye from a more serious eyelid cancer. 


In the photos below, all the patients believed that they initially had a stye or chalazion. Some of them were even treated by medical professionals as chalazion but it turned out that they had a skin cancer. If there is any doubt over a lesion or growth being a stye or a skin cancer, get checked by a specialist who will accurately diagnose you. 



Onset of Action


Styes or Chalazion tend to show up over a couple days and come to a "full head" within a week or so. Eyelid cancer tends to grow slowly.



Styes of Chalazion tend to be tender initially and then eventually become painless. It is uncommon for eyelid cancer to cause pain at all



Styes or Chalazion do not bleed spontaneously whereas eyelid cancer can bleed spontaneously. In fact, spontaneous bleeding is almost a definitive sign of cancer.


Eyelash loss


Loss of eyelashes can be seen chalazion but is much more common with eyelid cancer. Any lash loss is  a sign to see your oculoplastic surgeon. 




Bumps on the eyelid in younger patients tend to be more benign than older patients. That being said, the youngest patient I have had with eyelid cancer was 18 year old snow boarder in Boulder so anything is possible. Chalazions or styes can occur at any age range. 


History of skin cancer in the past

A History of skin cancer puts a patient at 50% greater chance to get  a new skin cancer. In short, if you get a bump on the eyelid or face, assume it is a skin cancer and see a doctor to get it checked. 


I have had several patients from Denver, Littleton and Boulder with what they thought were eyelid styes or chalazions and ended up being a skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. At our office one of our oculoplastics surgeons can do a quick check if a bump on the eyelid needs excision, biopsy or just warm compresses. 





bottom of page