Stye and chalazion are two eye problems that, although they may seem very similar, have a different origin. Dr. Alessandra Di Maria, specialist for orbital diseases and disorders of the eyelids and tears in Humanitas, spoke about this topic in an interview with Corriere della Sera.

The stye is not painful and it is due to the inflammation of the Zeiss glands, small sebaceous glands present at the base of the lashes. In most cases, the inflammation comes from a bacterial staphylococcus infection, which leads to the formation of a sort of yellowish-white pimple at the root of an eyelash.


The chalazion

“Chalazion, on the other hand, is a cyst that is formed following a chronic inflammation of the glands of Meibon, which produce the lipid (fat) component of tears. The excretory duct of these glands may occlude with the result that the product of the gland, instead of being eliminated in the tear film, accumulates and the gland increases in volume, resulting in inflammation, swelling and pain. If it grows large, thick eyelid support may even lead to astigmatism.

If you are dealing with persistent chalazia, which tend to repeat, you should consider that, in about 8% of cases, the chalazion can actually be a lymphoma and, fortunately very rarely, a sebaceous carcinoma: these conditions should not be underestimated, especially in the presence of suspicious symptoms, such as salmon pink staining of the conjunctiva or ulceration,” explained Dr. Di Maria.


Diagnosis and treatment

A clinical evaluation is sufficient for diagnosis.

The stye tends to heal spontaneously: the boil opens out and the material inside comes out. Disinfectant wipes, antibiotic ointments or drops can be useful in facilitating recovery and fighting the infection. The stye rarely becomes chronic, in which case surgical removal may be necessary.

The treatment of chalazion instead involves the use of antibiotic-based ointments, to counteract any bacterial over infections, and cortisone, to reduce the swelling of the walls of the excretory duct of the glands and thus help the escape of secretion.

If this option is not effective, a small surgery is required in the outpatient setting to remove the calyx. “At the discretion of the call center and the surgeon’s judgment, the operation will be carried out through the conjunctiva or transcutaneously and conducted under local anesthesia, but in children general anesthesia may be necessary, so the pros and cons of a possible operation must be carefully evaluated,” concluded Dr. Di Maria.