A stye or a chalazion are different stages of the same eye condition. Its a painful bacterial infection that occurs on the eyelids. It is not a very uncommon condition and would not be considered a major eye issue. However, it is painful and very visible.
We see quite a few patients with a stye and it does appear that when we connect their eye condition to a word they have already heard they understand better. It called Aanjani in Hindi and is also referred to by the same name in Gujarathi.
Each eyelid margin has a row of eyelashes. The eyelashes arise from a hair follicle. Just behind the row of eyelashes are tiny openings of meibomian glands. These meibomian glands are like oil glands or sebaceous glands. These meibomian glands are located in the Tarsal plate in the eyelid. The oil secretion from these glands spreads over the tear fluid on the front surface of the eye and prevent evaporation and thus dryness.
If the hair follicle gets infected then we get what is known as external hordeolum. This is also known as an external stye. However, if a meibomian gland gets infected then it is known as an internal hordeolum. This is also known as an internal stye.
There may be minor differences in the way they appear. One is more superficial while one is situated a little deeper within the lid. However, from a patient point of view they are both a painful lump in the eyelid.
Stye in eyelid is caused becasue of the openings of these oil glands and hair follicles getting blocked. This blockage can happen because of dirt or makeup on the eyelid. In other words poor lid hygiene. They are caused by organisms found on the skin but the most common bacteria are the staphylococci bacteria.
A stye occurs due to an infection of the hair follicle or the meibomian glands of the eye lids. The stye could thus be located on either the upper or the lower eyelid and anywhere on it. Some of our patients say that their swelling is in the corner of the eyelid and thus should not be a stye. That is not true and a stye can occur anywhere on the eyelid.
The first and most troublesome symptom is pain. Pain usually starts before the lump is visible. However many patients notice a yellow dot. This is the opening of the infected area on the skin.
Here are some symptoms
"Is this Stye in eye contagious ?" This is a very common question we get asked. A stye is definitely not contagious. In other words if someone looks at another who has a stye its not like the other person is also going to get the stye.
Most of the times a stye subsides and dissapears. Sometime this happens without any treatment and happens on its own. Most of the times however treatment is necessary. About 20% of the times a stye turns into a chalazion. Most of the times a chalazion has to be treated.
Sometimes the skin over the external stye burts and blood and pus ooze out. Even though this sounds terrible, when this happens the pain reduces instantly. The recovery process speeds up because now the ointment can be applied to the main infected area and all the pus has drained out. Similarly, internal styes can burst internally and lead to oozing out of pus and blood but this occurs internally and one will have to wash the eye or wipe off from the eye. Again this improves the condition almost instantly.
Recurrent styes can lead to disruption of lash growth. If its only a single lash it may not be visible. However, when multiple adjacent eye lashes are affected this may become visible.
Sometimes however, the infection of a stye can spread to regions surrounding it. In other words the abscess can burst within the lid and infection spreads to other parts of the lid. When this happens the entire lid swells and becomes painful and tense. This is also known as preseptal cellulitis or periorbital cellulitis.
Other times, this preseptal cellulitis can spread further within the orbit leading to orbital cellulitis which is a serious condition. Orbital cellulitis requires admission into a hospital with intravenous antibiotics and close observation. If the condition does not seem to improve, then surgical removal of the infected tissues may become necessary.
A stye is an acute infection. As mentioned earlier, it is painful and appears tense. This is because at this time it is like an abscess. There is active infection in the stye.
However, becasue of body defences and also the stye treatments the infection gradually dies down. As it dies down pain and swelling reduce. The skin also gets back its normal appearance.
However, sometimes the swelling does not go completely. There is still a small or large lump present in the lid. This painless lump which is a sequelae of a stye is called a chalazion.
When one has a stye the following should be avoided
Stye management includes
A chalazion is a painless lump in the eyelid. It is a sequelae of a stye. Usually a chalazion does not go away and needs to be removed.
It is removed by a procedure called incision and curretage. Here, after administering local anesthesia to the region, a small incision is made at the backside of the eyelid. Thus, there is no incision on the skin. The contents of the chalazion are scooped out. The incision is not sutured and the wound heals on its own.
Because of the anesthesia and the procedure some lid swelling persists for a few days.
After the surgery the patient is asked to apply an antibiotic ointment and continue the hot water fomentation for a few days.
There is no cosmetic deformity after the procedure.
Sometimes steroid injections are given into the chalzion and a surgery can be avoided. One must be very careful with these injection because sometimes the bolus of the steroid can stay in the eyelid and cause another set of issues.
There is a condition called meibomitis. This is nothing but infection of the meibomian glands. It occurs because of poor hygiene of the eyelid margins. Meibomitis is a precursor to a stye. It thus becomes important to treat meibomitis.
Treatment is somewhat similar to a stye treatment.
1) Hot fomentation
2) Antibiotic eye ointment
3) Daily lid hygiene - Here one can take some baby shampoo and after mixing it with a little water use a cotton swab or an ear bud to dip into the shampoo and clean the lid margin. This will remove the dirt on the lid margin and open up the blocked pores.
Even though we may stop the ointment usage after 1-2 weeks it is important that one continues the hot fomentation for longer periods of time to prevent styes from recurring.
Some patients come in with recurrent styes. Usually these are recurring styes and there is nothing more to it. Sometimes however, these are not styes and may point to something more sinister. If a stye is recurring at the same location your eye doctor may suggest a biopsy of the area. This biopsy is suggested because your eye doctor may suspect a malignant eyelid condition. Ofcourse more often these are benign eyelid lesions but it is important to confirm the diganosis with a biopsy.
Cataract surgery is the commonest eye surgery performed worldwide. One of the most dreaded complications of cataract surgery is an eye infection. Its important to rule out styes or chalazions or meibomitis before performing cataract surgery for this very reason. Today, cataract surgery is performed by inserting a lens or an IOL in the eye. If these precautions are taken before surgery cataract surgery remains a very safe procedure to undergo.