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Is the Bump on Your Eyelid a Stye or a Chalazion?

You wake up, ready to face the day with your eyes wide open, only to be greeted by an unexpected visitor on your eyelid. No, it’s not your typical morning puffy eye or mascara smudge. It’s a red bump. Could it be a stye or is it a chalazion?

You may be familiar with styes, but what the heck is a chalazion (pronounced kuh-LAY-zee-uhn)? A chalazion is a small lump on the eyelid that is usually harmless but can be very annoying – especially if you have a big face-to-face meeting coming up. 

Read on to understand what chalazia are, how they differ from styes and how to get rid of them as quickly and safely as possible. 

What is a chalazion and how is it different from a stye?

“A chalazion is a lump or cyst that forms on the eyelid from a blocked oil gland,” said Adam Bryan, MD, a family medicine physician with Banner Health. “It occurs when the meibomian gland, which produces the oily part of tears, becomes swollen and clogs up the opening.”

This blockage can cause oil and other debris to build up, causing the gland to swell and form a bump on the eyelid. Chalazia are often confused with styes because they both involve swelling of glands in the eyelids, but they have some distinct differences.

“A chalazion tends to develop slowly and is usually painless, whereas a stye is a painful swelling or bump that develops quickly,” Dr. Bryan said. 

While a blockage causes a chalazion, a stye is caused by a bacterial infection of the oil glands or hair follicles at the base of the eyelashes. A chalazion is usually located further away from the eyelid’s edge or under the bottom eyelashes.

A stye can be tender to the touch and may contain pus. A chalazion usually does not contain pus. 

[Also read “How to Prevent and Treat Those Pesky Styes on Your Eyelids.”]

Causes of chalazion

The main cause of a chalazion is clogged oil glands, but other factors may increase your risk of getting one:

  • Had it before: If you have one chalazion, you are more likely to get another.
  • Blepharitis: This skin condition causes swelling, redness and itching of the eye and is often caused by bacteria or other skin conditions. Left untreated, it can lead to a chalazion.
  • Poor hygiene: If you always forget to remove your eye makeup or clean your eyelids properly, you may be more prone to getting these bumps.
  • Skin conditions: Certain skin conditions, such as rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis, can affect the eyelids and increase the risk for a chalazion.

Symptoms of a chalazion

Many symptoms of a chalazion may overlap with those of a stye, but the biggest difference is that chalazia are usually painless. 

Other symptoms may include: 

  • A small bump on the eyelid.
  • Feeling tender when you touch it (but not painful).
  • Swelling of the eyelid, especially if the bump is big.
  • Blurry vision if the chalazion is large enough to press on the eye.

Treatment options

Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to squeeze a chalazion. Doing so may only make the swelling worse. 

Most chalazia can be treated at home and usually clear up on their own in a few weeks to a month. 

Home treatments include:

  • Use a warm compress: Place a moistened, warm washcloth on the eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes, several times a day for several days. The warmth may help soften the hardened debris blocking the ducts and allow it to open and drain.
  • Practice good eye hygiene: Wash your eyelids regularly. Do not wear eye makeup or contact lenses while you have a chalazion. 
  • Wash your hands: Keep your hands clean and avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.

If home care isn’t doing the trick, see your health care provider or an eye specialist like an optometrist or ophthalmologist. You should also see a specialist if your chalazion is so big it’s causing vision changes. Your provider may recommend antibiotic eye drops and steroid injections to heal the bump. 

“In severe cases, an eye specialist may need to numb the area and cut open the chalazion to drain it,” Dr. Bryan said. This minor surgery is usually done in the office.

If the chalazion keeps coming back, your provider may biopsy it to see if there is a more serious eye problem. 

Preventing a chalazion

“Good hygiene is the best way to prevent chalazia,” Dr. Bryan said.  

Some essential steps of good hygiene include:

  • Handwashing: Wash your hands well with soap and warm water before touching your eyes or removing or inserting contacts.
  • Contact care: Keep your contacts clean and disinfected. Don’t reuse disposable contacts. Remember to take your contacts out at night when you sleep.
  • Face washing: Wash your face to remove dirt and makeup. 
  • Makeup hygiene: Remove eye makeup before going to bed and replace your eye makeup every three months. Don’t share your eye makeup with anyone.


Sometimes, even if you try to put your best face forward, your eyes have other plans. Don’t let a little red bump get you down. If you have a chalazion and it doesn’t go away with home treatment, see an eye specialist, your provider or a Banner Health specialist. You’ll be as good as new in the blink of an eye.  

For more eye-related articles, check out:

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