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Sty (stye) facts

There are two types of styes; 1. Hordeolum is a blockage of one of the sweat glands found in the skin of the lid and base of the eyelashes, or one of the small sebaceous glands found at the base of the eyelashes. Sebaceous glands secrete sebum, a waxy, oily material. 2. chalazion is a blockage of a meibomian gland, which is a special oil gland (sebaceous) unique to the eyelids. These glands form a single row in each lid, with the body of the gland located inside the eyelid, and the opening located at the rim of the lid, posterior to the lashes.

Some experts believe that usually, most people with a sty develop it when some normal occurring and/or transient bacteria multiply in the eyelid. Because these bacteria are not necessarily transferred from one person to another, some researchers consider a sty to be noncontagious. Others, however, feel that if another person touches the infected eye it’s possible to transfer the infection person to person.

The symptoms of a sty are foreign body sensation in the eye (particularly with blinking; eye pressure, and a painful red bump, though often they are painless. There may also be blurred vision if thick sebum or pus from within the sty spreads over the eye’s surface.

If chronic meibomian gland dysfunction is present, dry eye symptoms are common. This is because the meibomian glands secrete an oil onto the surface of the eye to prevent the water layer of tears from evaporating too rapidly from the eye’s surface between blinks

Signs of a sty include; presence of a lump or bump (like a pimple) on the edge of the eyelid; redness of the skin overlying the eyelid bump, and swelling and puffy appearance of the eyelid.

If the sty is draining material from the gland’s opening, there may be thick discharge or crusty material accumulating on the lids and lashes. Pus may ooze out through a break in the skin. Watery tears can also be produced in response to irritation and pain.

Stys can be external, meaning the blocked gland protrudes outward and appears as a visible swelling under the skin, or interior. Styes occur when a gland in or on the eyelid becomes plugged or blocked.

The most common risk factor is sluggish outflow of the sebum from the meibomian glands, which is commonly seen in a chronic inflammatory condition called meibomian gland dysfunction.

Meibomian gland dysfunction is frequently associated with acne rosacea on the cheeks and nose but can also be seen alone.

Other risks include obstruction of the gland’s opening by scar tissue following infections, burns, or trauma. Foreign substances such as makeup and dust can also clog the gland’s opening if not properly washed away.

Eye specialists, including optometrists and ophthalmologists, are called upon to treat more advanced cases such as styes that appear infected or those that recur.

The most conservative treatment is application of frequent warm (not too hot) compresses alone. This can be accomplished with a wet warm washcloth, microwaveable eye masks (sold at drugstores), or a plug-in electric heating pad. Several minutes at a time (for example, 15 minutes). will improve the odds that the sty or chalazion will clear on its own. Be sure to check the temperature of the compress against another part of your skin, such as the back of your hand, to ensure the compress does not burn your eye or face.

An ophthalmologist can inject a steroid into the lesion, often resulting in a speedier resolution. However, this carries a small risk of bleeding/bruising, depigmentation/thinning of the skin, scar, pain, and in very rare cases, loss of vision.

If a sty appears infected, oral antibiotics may be necessary. An abscess can form in the eyelid. A culture of the material in the chalazion is sometimes obtained to identify the bacterium. Its recommended not wearing contact lenses or eye makeup until the sty resolves. When a sty or chalazion clears on its own, there are rarely complications. Very rarely, a chronic, recurring chalazion is a sign of a cancer in the eyelid. An ophthalmologist will look for signs of malignancy and obtain a biopsy of one is suspected.

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