Sty (Stye) (cont.)
Patricia S. Bainter, MD
Dr. Bainter is a board-certified ophthalmologist. She received her BA from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and her MD from the University of Colorado in Denver, CO. She completed an internal medicine internship at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver, CO, followed by an ophthalmology residency and a cornea and external disease fellowship, both at the University of Colorado. She became board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology in 1998 and recertified in 2008. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Bainter practices general ophthalmology including cataract surgery and management of corneal and anterior segment diseases. She has volunteered in eye clinics in the Dominican Republic and Bosnia. She currently practices at One to One Eye Care in San Diego, CA.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is a sty?
- What causes a sty?
- What are the risk factors for a sty?
- How is a sty diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for a sty?
- Are home remedies effective for a sty?
- What is the prognosis for a sty?
- Can a sty be prevented?
- Find a local Eye Doctor in your town
How is a sty diagnosed?
The doctor will examine the lids to locate the opening of the plugged gland. This helps to distinguish between a hordeolum and a chalazion. Also, the doctor will look for signs of scar tissue, foreign bodies, or underlying chronic meibomitis to determine the cause.
In addition, the doctor will look for any signs that the gland may have become infected. It is particularly important to identify infection that has spread from the gland to the neighboring skin, tissue around the eye, or the eye itself.
What is the treatment for a sty?
A non-infected hordeolum will resolve on its own. Warm compresses may help soften the material in the gland, easing the drainage of the gland's contents. Squeezing or cutting the hordeolum can cause the skin to become scarred.
A non-infected chalazion similarly will resolve on its own, though over a much longer period of time. A small chalazion may resolve within weeks, while larger ones may resolve over the course of a year.
The most conservative treatment is application of frequent warm compresses. Steroids can be injected 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.
Finally, the chalazion can be incised and drained. This is the most invasive method and is reserved as a last resort by most eye doctors. The eyelid is anesthetized, and a clamp is placed around the chalazion. The eyelid is everted, and the meibomian gland is incised from the back surface of the eyelid, avoiding cutting the skin on the front surface. The waxy sebum is 'scooped' out of the gland with a special curette. This 'debulking' of the gland's contents may be sufficient to shrink the chalazion; however, there is risk that the chalazion may recur, particularly if the underlying cause is not addressed.
If either type of sty appears infected, oral antibiotics may be necessary. This is particularly important if the infection is spreading along the skin (cellulitis) or spreading into the orbit (orbital cellulitis). Orbital cellulitis is considered an emergency, as rapidly spreading infection can threaten a person's vision and even a person's life and can require intravenous antibiotics.
In some situations, the infection spreads to the eye itself. Depending on what the eye doctor finds on careful slit lamp examination of the eye, topical antibiotics (drops or ointment) might be sufficient.
Treatment of the underlying cause of the sty is also important to prevent recurrence.
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