What Is a Stye?

stye infection

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  • The usual culprit behind this condition is the Staphylococcus bacteria, which is commonly found on your skin and hair and in your nose. You can easily transfer these bacteria to your eyelids after rubbing your eyes or using contaminated eye accessories and makeup
  • People between ages 30 and 50 years old are more likely to get a stye because they have higher incidences of meibomitis and rosacea, as well as higher levels of androgen, which increases the viscosity of sebum

A stye is a minor yet painful eyelid infection that affects millions of Americans.1 The medical term for this condition is “hordeolum,” and it commonly occurs as a small bump along the margin of the eyelids. The usual culprit behind this condition is the Staphylococcus bacteria, which is commonly found on your skin and hair and in your nose.2 You can easily transfer these bacteria to your eyelids after rubbing your eyes or using contaminated eye accessories and makeup.3

In most cases, a stye affects only one eyelid at a time and it appears singularly. However, it’s possible for you to develop styes on both eyes or have more than one stye on the same eye.4 While it usually doesn’t pose any serious threat to your eyesight, a stye may still cause significant discomfort, since it often leads to excessive tear production and eye discharge.5

Even though this condition is extremely common, its epidemiology is still unclear. Statistics show that it may affect any age. However, people between ages 30  50 years old are more likely to get it because they have higher incidences of meibomitis (clogged sebaceous glands)6 and rosacea (which can lead to ocular rosacea)7 as well as higher levels of androgen, which increases the viscosity of sebum.8

Styes May Be Classified Into Two Different Types

Styes are categorized based on the part of the eye where they occur. The two different types of this condition are:9

External hordeolum: Known as the most common form of stye, an external hordeolum occurs due to a bacterial infection of an eyelash follicle, a sebaceous (Zeis) gland or an apocrine (Moll) gland. It produces the typical appearance of a stye, which is basically an abscess that’s filled with pus.

Internal hordeolum: This is a less common form of stye that occurs when a meibomian gland inside the eyelid becomes acutely infected. Since it’s located underneath the eyelid, an internal hordeolum has a less defined appearance and is often more painful than its external counterpart.

Despite the difference in physical presentation and symptoms, the treatment methods for both internal and external styes are relatively the same.

Knowing the Difference Between Styes and Other Eye Infections Is Extremely Important

Swollen bumps on the eyelids are often misdiagnosed, which may prevent you from getting the right kind of treatment for your needs. Not only will this delay your recovery, but it may also put you at risk of serious complications. Here are some of the eye problems that are usually misdiagnosed as a stye:10

Chalazion: Also called an eyelid cyst, a chalazion is often mistaken for a stye, as it also causes a bump on the eyelid. However, unlike a stye, a chalazion is not caused by a bacterial infection. Rather, it occurs when the oil gland in the eyelid becomes blocked. It’s also painless and it does not have a head.11

Blepharitis: Having blepharitis is one of the factors that increase your risk for a stye. However, it’s important to note that these two conditions are entirely different. Blepharitis is the medical term for inflammation of the eyelids, which is usually caused by malfunctioning oil glands, allergies, systemic diseases and other eye infections.

One way to tell if you have blepharitis instead of a stye is by checking the base of your eyelashes for dandruff-like scales, which are usually accompanied by itchy eyelids.12

Cellulitis: Cellulitis is also an infection that affects the eyelid tissues. However, it tends to affect a large area, unlike a stye, which is usually the size of a pimple or boil. If not properly treated, cellulitis may lead to vision problems and even blindness.

If you’re unsure of the type of eyelid infection that you have, it’s best to consult a doctor to properly evaluate and diagnose your condition and help you come up with  the right treatment methods for your needs.

MORE ABOUT STYE

Stye: Introduction

What Is a Stye?

Stye Symptoms

Stye Causes

Stye Treatment

Stye Prevention

How to Get Rid of a Stye

Is a Stye Contagious?

How Long Do Styes Last?

Stye FAQ



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