An infected eyelash follicle is a stye. A more common bump on the eyelid is a chalazion.  A stye appears as a red, swollen bump that looks like a pimple. It is tender, especially to the touch.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

A stye is caused by bacteria from the skin that get into the sweat glands around the eyelids. Styes are similar to common acne pimples that occur elsewhere on the skin. You may have more than one stye at the same time.

Styes usually develop over a few days and may drain and heal on their own. Occasionally, a stye can become a chalazion — this is when an inflamed oil gland becomes fully blocked. If a chalazion gets large enough, it can cause trouble with vision.

If you have blepharitis, you are more likely to get styes and chalazia.

Other possible eyelid bumps include:

  • Xanthelasma – raised yellow patches on your eyelids that can happen with age. These are harmless, although they are occasionally a sign of high cholesterol.
  • Papillomas – pink or skin-colored bumps. They are harmless, but can slowly grow, affect your vision, or bother you for cosmetic reasons. If so, they can be surgically removed.
  • Cysts – small fluid-filled sacs that can affect your vision.


In addition to the red, swollen bump, other possible symptoms include:

  • A gritty, scratchy sensation as if there is a foreign body
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tearing of your eye
  • Tenderness of the eyelid

Signs and tests

We can diagnose a stye just by looking at it. Special tests are usually not necessary.


  • Styes and chalazia are usually treated by applying warm compresses. Apply for 10 minutes. Do this three times a day.
  • Antibiotic creams may help recurrent or persistent styes. Some large styes need to be lanced to drain the infection.

Expectations (prognosis)

Styes often get better on their own. However, they may recur. The outcome is generally excellent with simple treatment.


  • Recurrence of a stye
  • Spread of infection to other eyelash follicles
  • Spread of infection to the tissue of the eyelid (eyelid cellulitis)


Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching the skin around your eye. If you are susceptible to styes, it may help to carefully clean off excess oils from the edges of your lids.

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