Want to find out the main differences between a stye vs. chalazion? You’re at the right place!
The eyes are one of the most crucial organs of the human body, which is why developing conditions related to the eye can be a stressful or traumatizing experience. One such issue that people often encounter is a small painful bump that either develops on the edge of the eyelid or beneath it, that is, towards the inside of the lid. Nevertheless, these bumps can cause significant discomfort as the eyelid starts to feel heavy, swollen, or painful.
The good news is that this condition is common and easily treatable.
Depending on the bump’s location on the eyelid, these small yet problematic bumps are termed either a stye or a chalazion.
Stye vs. Chalazion: Presentation and Appearance
Let’s compare the presentation of stye vs. chalazion in this section.
The eyes are equipped with some glands that each have their respective functions in keeping the eye moist, nourished, and in its optimal state. When these glands get blocked, problems begin to develop.
One such gland that tends to get blocked is the meibomian glands that are found in the eyelids. They are oil glands that help in maintaining the tear film. When these meibomian glands get infected and inflamed, a resultant stye or chalazion forms.
A stye or ‘hordeolum’ is a small, painful red bump that grows on the eyelids due to a bacterial infection of the meibomian glands. It usually forms on the base or edge of the eyelid, from the point where the eyelashes grow. 
A stye is called ‘Internal Hordeolum’ if it grows inside the eyelash margin and a ‘Hordeolum Exterum’ if it grows outside, towards the outer side of the eyelid margin.
A stye is very contagious and needs to be taken care of to prevent exacerbation of pain or discomfort Additionally, proper eye care is required to prevent it from spreading further.
On the other hand, a chalazion is a long-term inflammation of the eyelids that occurs when the secretions of the meibomian gland get obstructed within the gland.
The accumulation and failure of the gland’s secretions to get released results in the formation of a painless bump on the upper eyelid called the ‘chalazion.’ It mainly develops inside the eyelid. 
Symptoms and Signs of Stye vs. Chalazion
Both stye and chalazion present with similar features. This is also one of the reasons why it can be challenging to distinguish between them.
However, some distinct features that occur with the development of either of these eye conditions include:
- Pain, redness, and swelling in the affected eyelid. This looks like a pimple in the eye You might look like you have a pink eye
- Experiencing a sensation of a foreign body in the eye which causes discomfort and itch
- Unexplained sensitivity to light,
- Accumulation of crust at the eyelid margins. 
- A chalazion or chalazia usually develops on the upper eyelid as the number of meibomian glands is greater in this eyelid
- The feeling of heaviness or a droopy eyelid due to the weight of the eye lesion
- Blurring of the vision due to the resultant pressure on the eyeball,
- Watering from the eyes due to inflammation. 
While the presentation might differ from person to person, some common risk factors make a person more vulnerable to developing either of these conditions.
- Acne rosacea
- Improper or constant use of expired contact lenses
- Lack of eyelid hygiene, such as not removing eye makeup or sleeping with it on
- Any meibomian gland dysfunction. 
How Can You Tell the Difference Between Stye vs. Chalazion?
Since both the style and chalazion are eyelid-related conditions and are usually present in the same way, it gets challenging for people to tell whether they have developed a chalazion or a stye.
But thankfully, some differences can help us identify whether the bump on your eyelid is a stye or a chalazion. 
Let us have a look at these differences between stye vs. chalazion:
A stye can get very irritating. It is painful and tends to become swollen and itchy over time. There would be a nagging urge to keep scratching it., In contrast, there is neither any significant pain nor itching involved with a chalazion. It only makes your eyelid feel heavier!
Apart from the pain factor, the cause that leads to the development of either the style or the chalazion matters.
A stye would always follow a bacterial infection in the eyelid. In contrast, a chalazion occurs due to inflammatory changes within the eyelid.
The presence of redness in a stye and its very absence in a chalazion is sufficient proof of that.
A stye is commonly found near the eyelash follicle. This location is close to the eyelid margin or its base, whereas the chalazion is mainly seen on the eyelid, above the eyelash base region.
It is also common for a stye to appear on the lower eyelid and a chalazion to occur on the upper eyelid, although there are cases that are exceptions.
These distinct features of a stye or chalazion may help you differentiate them both.
Treatment for Stye vs. Chalazion at Home
Fortunately enough, both conditions do not lead to serious health outcomes. Although they might cause discomfort, they almost always resolve on their own within a few weeks. Hence, you won’t need to worry about needing complicated procedures or surgery to remove them.
Thankfully, there are several home remedies and ways to take care of your stye or chalazion. These remedies may help ease the pain and discomfort. 
Home treatments for stye mostly prove to be curative, and so, a trip to the doctor might not be needed at all.
Let’s explore these home treatment options!
Perhaps the most commonly used home remedy for curing any eye-related infection or disease is warm compression, which is gently dabbing the affected area with a warm cloth. This needs to be done with extra care and precaution to prevent excessive pressure from being exerted, which may cause the blister to burst.
Warm compresses using a washcloth dipped in warm water will help reduce inflammation, swelling, and the associated pain. In addition, you may add some over-the-counter painkillers to further reduce the pain.
To prevent future recurrences or worsening of the condition, practicing good eyelid hygiene is critical.
Using a Q-tip and baby shampoo, gently and carefully clear out any crusted flakes from the eyelid. Baby shampoos are mild and free from harmful chemicals. By maintaining your eyelid hygiene, you can prevent the lesion from further exacerbation.
Also, it is best if you avoid wearing any eye makeup or contact lenses during this period.
A gentle, light massage using clean fingers can help stimulate the meibomian oil glands and promote secretion. Avoid applying too much force or pressure as this may worsen the condition.
When Should I Visit a Doctor?
Unfortunately, home remedies are not a guaranteed fix. At times, seeing a doctor is the safest route to take to ensure complete recovery without any complications.
If you notice that your symptoms are worsening, your eyesight is significantly affected, or that your swelling is causing worrying pain and discomfort, then visiting an ophthalmologist (an eye doctor) is highly recommended. 
A doctor might suggest you the following course of treatment:
Antibiotics help fight the infection causing the infectious stye in the first place and may help alleviate some of your symptoms.
The doctor may recommend antibiotic eye drops, oral antibiotics, or an antibiotic ointment to contain the infection. 
Surgical Drainage and Excision
When nothing works, surgery will be considered as the final treatment choice. It is done to drain the discharge or, in case of a chronic chalazion, to excise it, relieving the pressure off the eyelid.
In case of a recurrent chalazion, an ophthalmologist usually recommends getting a steroid injection to prevent any future occurrences.
Chalazia and styes are conditions involving the eyelids that will usually go away without the use of medication. Home remedies and proper care can speed up recovery. However, if symptoms worsen, it is best to seek professional advice!
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Willmann, D., Guier, C. P., Patel, B. C., & Melanson, S. W. (2022). Stye. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
- Jordan, G. A., & Beier, K. (2022). Chalazion. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
- Bragg, K. J., Le, P. H., & Le, J. K. (2021). Hordeolum. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
- National Library of Medicine. (2022). Styes and chalazia (inflammation of the eyelid): Overview. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557372/
- Patel, S., Tohme, N., Gorrin, E., Kumar, N., Goldhagen, B., & Galor, A. (2021). Prevalence and risk factors for chalazion in an older veteran population. The British journal of ophthalmology, bjophthalmol-2020-318420. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjophthalmol-2020-318420
- Nemoto, Y., Arita, R., Mizota, A., & Sasajima, Y. (2014). Differentiation between chalazion and sebaceous carcinoma by noninvasive meibography. Clinical ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.), 8, 1869–1875. https://doi.org/10.2147/OPTH.S69804
- National Library Of Medicine. (2022). Styes and chalazia (inflammation of the eyelid): What can you do if you have a stye or a chalazion? Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557373/
- Li, J., Li, D., Zhou, N., Qi, M., Luo, Y., & Wang, Y. (2020). Effects of chalazion and its treatments on the meibomian glands: a nonrandomized, prospective observation clinical study. BMC ophthalmology, 20(1), 278. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12886-020-01557-z
- Wu, A. Y., Gervasio, K. A., Gergoudis, K. N., Wei, C., Oestreicher, J. H., & Harvey, J. T. (2018). Conservative therapy for chalazia: is it really effective?. Acta ophthalmologica, 96(4), e503–e509. https://doi.org/10.1111/aos.13675