Hordeolum is the technical name for a stye. Each of the eyelids contain approximately twenty glands that secrete oil through ducts just behind our eyelashes. This oil makes up one of the layers of our tear film and helps prevent evaporation of this protective barrier. A hordeolum or stye is a clogged oil gland that has become infected.

Styes are a small knot or bump on the eyelid around the area of infection which becomes red and tender to the touch. As the infection grows it  can become painful, but it remains non-contagious.

There are two classifications of styes, external and internal. External hordeolum forms a “whitehead” on the margin of the eyelid much the same way a pimple on the skin does. An internal hordeolum is deeper infections of the gland that do not extend all the way to its orifice.

The same initial methods are used to treat both external and internal styes. Hot compresses are used in an attempt to cause the stye to form a “whitehead” so that the infected material can be drained from the gland. With gentle pressure the gland may express the infected material. This relieves the pressure and pain associated with the stye and often allows the body to heal the remaining inflammation. The infection of a hordeolum  often requires oral antibiotic in conjunction with topical antibiotic eye drops and ointments. Prompt treatment of hordeolums often prevents the conversion to a cyst called a chalazion.



A chalazion is a stye that has become a cyst and oral and topical treatments rarely affect these cysts. Chalazia produce a large knot on the eyelid similar to a stye, but they are painless to the touch and are often not as red in color. Once the acutely painful stye has turned to a painless chalazion,they usually must be excised from the eyelid via a minor in office surgical procedure.

If you or your child is showing symptoms of a stye, seeing our team at Optique Professional Eye Care may prevent unnecessary complications.