Chalazion vs. Stye: What Are the Differences?

Chalazion vs. Stye: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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A chalazion and a stye may look similar, but they are not the same. A chalazion is a red bump on the eyelid that develops when there is a blocked oil gland. A stye (also called a hordeolum) develops where your eyelashes start or under your eyelid. Bacterial infections usually cause styes.

A chalazion or a stye is not usually serious. Discover more about the differences between a chalazion and a stye, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Chalazion vs. Stye

Verywell / Jessica Olah

Symptoms

The bumps caused by chalazia (the plural of chalazion) or styes may both look red and swollen, but there are some differences.

With a stye, symptoms include:

  • Crustiness on the eyelid margin
  • The feeling of something in your eye
  • Pain in the affected eyelid
  • A pimple-like appearance
  • A scratchy feeling in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Swelling that usually goes away after three days
  • Tearing in the affected eye

A chalazion sometimes may not have any symptoms aside from a hard bump. If other symptoms develop, they may be:

  • Blurry vision could happen with a larger chalazion.
  • Swelling may affect a larger area around the eye.

Chalazion bumps usually grow more slowly and may develop over a few months before they go away if left untreated. The bump is usually firmer than that from a stye.

Causes

Here are the different causes of a chalazion versus a stye.

Chalazion Causes

A chalazion is caused by a block in one of the oil glands in the eyelid. These glands are called Meibomian glands. Meibomian glands help provide moisture to the eye.

Other risk factors for chalazia include:

Diabetes, high cholesterol, and other medical problems can raise your risk for chalazia or styes.

Stye Causes

Most of the time, bacterial infections cause styes. There are two kinds of styes, and they have different infection-linked causes:

  • External stye: This type of stye appears at the eyelash base and is usually caused by an infection in the eyelash hair follicle.
  • Internal stye: This type of stye appears inside the eyelid and is usually caused by an infection in a Meibomian gland from your eyelid.

Inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis) also can cause a stye. Sometimes, a bump can begin as a stye and then become a chalazion.

Diagnosis

Chalazia and styes do not always require treatment from a healthcare professional. However, if they bother you, you should see an eye doctor.

Both chalazia and styes are diagnosed with an examination of the eyelid area, including the appearance of the eyelashes, the structure of your eyelids, and the texture of the skin near the eyelids.

This could include the use of bright light to get a closer look at the eyelids to help determine if it is a chalazion, stye, or something else. For instance, the bumps that may appear to be a chalazion or stye could be a type of cancer, including basal cell carcinoma.

The doctor also may ask about other health conditions that you have, as these could contribute to the development of a stye or chalazion.

Treatment

The treatments for a stye and a chalazion are similar, but not all treatments work for both.

Treatments include the use of:

  • Antibiotics: This may be used for an infected stye, but not for a chalazion.
  • Warm compresses: A warm compress can help promote faster healing. Apply a clean washcloth that has been soaked in hot water to your eyelid three to six times a day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Or, you can get an eye mask that can be heated.
  • Over-the-counter solutions: Stye ointment, eyewash products, and medicated pads to clean the eyelids can help treat a stye, but not a chalazion.
  • Steroid shots: A steroid shot can lower swelling. Your doctor may choose to use a steroid shot if your chalazion is particularly swollen.
  • Surgery to drain the chalazion or stye: A doctor can drain a chalazion or stye that obscures your vision. Do not try to drain it yourself at home. This could spread infection.

If your chalazion or stye continues to recur, your doctor may perform a biopsy by removing a piece of tissue from it. This can help rule out sebaceous gland carcinoma.

What to Avoid

Do not squeeze the stye or chalazion, and avoid rubbing the area. Do not wear contact lenses or use eye makeup while you have a chalazion or stye.

If you use home treatments such as warm compresses or over-the-counter solutions and your chalazion or stye still does not get better, seek help from a doctor.

You should also see a doctor if:

  • Your home treatments cause pain.
  • Your eyelid feels hot.
  • You have vision changes.

Prevention

Once you develop a chalazion or stye, you’re more prone to develop them again in the future. Here are a few things you can do to help prevent a chalazion or a stye:

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes. Rubbing your eyes can spread bacteria and lead to irritation.
  • Always wash your hands before touching your eyes.
  • Don’t share towels with someone who has a stye.
  • If you get chalazia frequently, ask an eye doctor if you should use a small amount of baby shampoo or an eyelid scrub. This is a type of product that gently cleanses the eyelids.
  • Get rid of older eye makeup. Makeup can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Aim to replace eye makeup every six months or more frequently. Don’t share your eye makeup with others.
  • Seek treatment anytime you develop an infection of the eyelid.
  • If you wear contact lenses, clean them per any recommendations from the manufacturer or eye doctor. Wash your hands when inserting or removing your lenses.
  • Wash your face at night, and remove all makeup before going to bed.

Summary

A stye or a chalazion appears as a bump on the eyelid, but there are several differences between the two. Styes are caused by an infection, while chalazia are due to a blocked oil gland. Both may cause redness or swelling, but a stye is often more painful.

Antibiotics might be used for a stye. Warm compresses and over-the-counter products may be used for either. A medical professional might administer a steroid shot or drain the bump, if necessary.

A Word From Verywell

A chalazion versus a stye may look similar, but they have different causes and somewhat different symptoms. You can try home treatments for a stye or chalazion, or you can see if they will go away on their own. If the appearance of a stye or chalazion bothers you, it affects your vision, or it recurs often, see a doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a chalazion look different from a stye?

A chalazion and a stye will look similar, but they are not the same. A chalazion appears on the eyelid and usually is firmer than a stye. A stye will develop on the base of your eyelashes or inside your eyelid. An external stye tends to look more like a pimple. Both a chalazion and a stye can be red and swollen.

Does a chalazion go away on its own?

A chalazion can go away on its own, but it may take a few weeks or a month. See a doctor if it doesn’t go away after a few weeks or you are concerned about its appearance.

What’s the best way to get rid of a stye on the eyelid?

If you have a stye on the eyelid, the best way to get rid of it is to:

  • Use warm compresses up to six times a day for 10 to 15 minutes each time.
  • Use over-the-counter ointments made for stye treatment.
  • Do not use eye makeup or wear contact lenses while you have a stye.
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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Who is at risk for chalazia and styes?

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  7. Cleveland Clinic. Sty (stye). Updated December 26, 2017.