The eyelid margin contains small oil-producing glands that help to lubricate the surface of the eyeball and eye lashes that help to trap dust from entering the eye. Stye or external hordeolum is an acute small staphylococcal abscess of eyelash follicle. On the other hand, retention of oil due to blocked gland’s orifices lead to formation of chalazion or internal hordeolum.

Photograph of eyelid margin with blocked gland’s orifices

Blocked gland’s orifices


Photograph of chalazion (internal hordeolum) resulting from retention of oil from the blocked gland’s orifices



Photograph of eye with stye and surrounding redness (due to cellulitis)

Stye (External hordeolum)

Signs & symptoms

A stye can cause few symptoms, such as:

  1. Pain
  2. Granular sensation in the eye
  3. Redness or swelling of the eyelid and surrounding skin.


In most cases stye frequently resolve after few days without any need of medication. However, some people may have complication, such as extension of infection to surrounding tissue causing preseptal cellulitis, with excessive painful swelling of the eyelid.


Luckily, most styes stay small and are just a minor annoyance. They can be treated at home with warm compresses applied directly to the eye several times a day. They often resolve on their own within a few days. If unresolved following warm compression, antibiotic eye ointment may be required. In the worst cases, styes can be surgically drained and/or removed in the clinic. The involved hair follicles should be removed or epilate.


People who have low grade infection of the eyelashes (blephritis) are prone to stye formation. This group of people needs regular cleaning of their eyelashes to prevent stye formation.

Steps in performing warm compression:

  1. Take a small handkerchief
  2. Dip in warm water
  3. Place on the eyelid with the eye close till hanky feels cold
  4. Repeat few times for about 10 minutes
  5. Do it 2-3 times a day

Steps in performing cleaning of eyelid (Eyelid toilet)

  1. Take a small cup / container
  2. Put small amount of clean water
  3. Add 5 drops of baby shampoo and mix well
  4. Dip a cotton bud into the mixture
  5. Rub the cotton bud gently against the eyelid margin, where the lashes are found.
    (Caution: avoid touching the cornea)
  6. Do it 2-3 times a day
  7. If the eyelid margin is too crusty, wet the eye with water before cleaning. This help to soften the crust.
Last Reviewed : 23 August 2019
Writer : Dr. Joseph Vijaya Alagaratnam
Reviewer : Dr. Rosniza bt. Ab. Razak