Both are red and swollen, so they can be hard to tell apart.
But styes and chalazia have different causes and slightly different symptoms.
In this article, I’ll outline the causes of styes and chalazia, and list their differing symptoms.
I’ll tell you who is at risk of developing these red bumps and how they’re diagnosed.
Finally, I’ll tell you how to get rid of both, how you can help prevent them, and when you should talk to a doctor about either condition.
What Causes a Stye?
Your eyelids have tiny glands that line the edge of each eyelid.
Usually, these glands secrete sweat and oil that coats the surface of your eyes and eyelashes.
If one of these glands becomes infected or obstructed, a red, swollen bump can develop.
This bump is called a stye, or a hordeolum.
A stye often looks like a pimple or boil and is hot, sore, or tender to the touch.
They are typically caused by bacterial infections, but a stye is not the same thing as pink eye (conjunctivitis).
Styes are not typically serious, but can cause irritation.
What Causes a Chalazion?
A chalazion, also called a meibomian cyst, may look similar to a stye, and is also caused by a blocked oil gland (one of the meibomian glands that lines the eyelids).
But unlike a stye, a chalazion is not caused by bacteria.
It also develops more slowly, and is usually not painful.
Difference between stye and chalazion?
Both styes and chalazia are small bumps that appear on the eyelid.
Both are usually red, but styes tend to be painful, while chalazia are not.
Chalazia are not caused by bacteria while styes are.
Sometimes a stye may turn into a chalazion if the irritation clears and a bump remains.
Symptoms of Styes and Chalazia
Styes and chalazia may start out looking similar, but there are differences in their symptoms.
Symptoms of a stye can include:
- Constantly feeling like something is in the eye
- Crusting of the eyelid
- Pain in the eyelid
- A small bump on the eyelid
- Watering eyes
- Scratchy eyes
- Light sensitivity
Chalazia do not always cause symptoms, but if they do, they are milder.
These can include:
- Swelling around the bump
- Slightly blurred vision if the chalazion is larger
Styes tend to appear more quickly.
A chalazion may slowly develop over several weeks or a month.
Who Is At Risk?
Certain medical conditions and certain habits increase the risk for chalazia, including:
- Viral infections
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- High cholesterol
- Low Vitamin A levels
You may be more likely to get a stye if you have blepharitis, an eye condition that can cause the eyelids to become red, swollen, and itchy.
Other factors may increase your risk for a stye, including:
- Not removing eye makeup
- Not getting enough sleep
Your doctor can diagnose a stye or chalazion from a physical examination.
Your doctor may look into your eye with a bright light to determine the cause of your eye irritation.
While most styes and chalazia do not require medical care, you should see your healthcare provider or an eye doctor if you are experiencing eye pain, changes to your vision, or worsening symptoms that don’t improve with home care
How To Get Rid of A Stye or Chalazion?
Styes will often resolve on their own within 1-2 weeks.
Chalazia may take slightly longer to resolve. If your symptoms are not going away on their own, there are additional treatment options.
For both stye and chalazion, the best treatment is regularly applied warm compresses.
This can help ease irritation, decrease eye-watering, and cleanse the area, and can help to open the clogged gland.
Do not rub the eye.
Place a clean, warm compress or washcloth over your closed eye for 5-15 minutes.
Reheat and replace your compress up to 5 times a day.
Styes do not always require treatment, but healthcare providers may prescribe a topical antibiotic ointment to reduce irritation and prevent further infection.
Antibiotic ointment or medication will not help clear a chalazion, since they are not caused by bacteria.
If your stye or chalazion is large enough to interfere with vision, an eye doctor may give you a steroid injection into the bump.
This can reduce swelling and improve some symptoms, but will not make the chalazion or stye go away completely.
If your stye or chalazion is very swollen or producing symptoms for a long time, an eye doctor or facial surgeon may be able to surgically drain it.
This can reduce swelling and improve vision while decreasing symptoms.
It is not the same as popping it yourself at home, which you should not do.
Do not pop or squeeze a stye or chalazion
Do not ever pick at or try to pop a stye or chalazion.
This could lead to more irritation or infection.
It will not resolve the bump, and will lead to worse symptoms.
Having a stye or chalazion can increase the risk of getting one again in the future.
They are not always preventable, but certain things can decrease the risk of getting another one:
- Properly cleanse your eyes, remove makeup, and keep your eyelids and lashes clear of irritants.
- Do not touch your eyes or insert contact lenses without washing your hands.
- Do not use old makeup. Regularly clean brushes and replace sponges used to apply makeup.
- Do not share face towels.
- Ask your doctor about eye cleanses, which can sometimes be done with baby shampoo or special eye washes.
- See an eye doctor for regular checkups and speak with your doctor if you are experiencing recurrent styes or chalazia.
When to See a Doctor
If you have any eye irritation or symptoms that concern you, check in with your medical provider.
Most eye conditions, like a stye or chalazion, are easily diagnosed with a physical examination.
How K Health Can Help
Check in with a primary care provider, right from the comfort of your own home.
Ask a K Health doctor about your eye symptoms and get personalized advice about treatment options, all from the affordable K Health app.
Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Styes and chalazia (inflammation of the eyelid): overview. (2019).
Eyelid bump. (2021).
What are styes and chalazia? (2021).
Styes and chalazia (inflammation of the eyelid): What can you do if you have a stye or a chalazion? (2019).