Seunga (Jasmine) Han, PharmD Candidate
“I Spy With My Little Eye”
Our eyes are some of the most valuable tools we have at our disposal, and everything we do relies on our vision in some form or another. Nevertheless, it can be easy to take our vision for granted until something goes wrong. Given the warm, moist environment of the eye, combined with how often we touch our faces, the eye can be a likely spot for infection, which can affect vision and potentially cause some embarrassment.1 Today, we go over some common infections of the eyelid area, how to identify them and go over some easy tricks to help speed up recovery.
A hordeolum, more commonly known as a stye, is the most common form of eyelid infection, characterized by swelling, discomfort, tenderness, and redness of the eyelid. Based on their presentation, there are two kinds of styes:1,2
- External hordeolum: small in size, about the size of a pimple, found near the base of the eyelashes.
- Internal hordeolum: larger, and found inside the eyelid.
How Do I Treat a Stye?
Fortunately, the treatment of a stye is fairly straightforward!
In fact, if you have an external hordeolum, it may drain spontaneously within 48 hours. Warm, wet compresses applied to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes, three to four times a day may quicken resolution. Of note, you do NOT have to heat compresses using a microwave – warm tap water is enough. In addition to warm compresses, you can also gently massage the eyelid. However, if the eye infection doesn’t drain within 48 hours, seek medical advice from a local healthcare professional.1
As for internal hordeolums, it takes a little longer to resolve the infection – about one to two weeks. Again, use warm compresses for 5 to 10 minutes several times a day, and seek out a health care provider if symptoms don’t improve in one week.1
To prevent spreading the infection to the other eye or to someone else, avoid touching the infected eye as much as possible (besides applying compresses and massaging), and wash your hands frequently. Additionally, be sure to change compresses and towels after each use.1
A chalazion is another type of infection that resembles a stye but is characterized by having no pain or discomfort. Additionally, most chalazions grows inside the eyelid and may cause blurry vision when it gets large enough to press on your eye. They are more common in individuals with blepharitis, acne rosacea, or seborrheic dermatitis.1
How Do I Treat a Chalazion?
Just like a stye, you can use warm compresses for 10 to 15 minutes for two to four times a day as well as massage your eyelid to help the drainage. However, a larger, more severe chalazion may require surgical excision, steroid injections below the skin, or both. These procedures are performed by an ophthalmologist upon their assessment and may be accompanied by topical antibiotics or corticosteroid drops to prevent infection and reduce inflammation.1
If you don’t notice any improvement within two to three days, or if the lesion is large and painful, make sure to seek additional help from healthcare providers.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, most infections in and around the eyelid are fairly straightforward to treat, and generally, aren’t a cause for concern. However, it’s important to take note of the progress and seek appropriate help if things don’t get better.
One last thing to note is that with local infections, it’s still important to monitor yourself for any full-body symptoms, including nausea, dizziness, fever, or a sudden worsening in how you feel overall. The reason being is that even with small infections restricted to one area, there’s always a risk of the infection spreading, which is a definite sign you should see a healthcare provider immediately.1
As always, we hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- American Academy of Ophthalmology