Sty - Treatment

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What is the treatment for a sty?

A non-infected hordeolum will resolve on its own. Warm compresses may help soften the material in the gland, easing the drainage of the gland's contents. Squeezing or cutting the hordeolum can cause the skin to become scarred.

A non-infected chalazion similarly will resolve on its own, though over a much longer period of time. A small chalazion may resolve within weeks, while larger ones may resolve over the course of a year.

The most conservative treatment is application of frequent warm compresses. Steroids can be injected into the lesion, often resulting in a speedier resolution. However this carries a small risk of bleeding/bruising, depigmentation/thinning of the skin, scar, pain, and in very rare cases, loss of vision.

Finally, the chalazion can be incised and drained. This is the most invasive method and is reserved as a last resort by most eye doctors. The eyelid is anesthetized, and a clamp is placed around the chalazion. The eyelid is everted, and the meibomian gland is incised from the back surface of the eyelid, avoiding cutting the skin on the front surface. The waxy sebum is 'scooped' out of the gland with a special curette. This 'debulking' of the gland's contents may be sufficient to shrink the chalazion; however, there is risk that the chalazion may recur, particularly if the underlying cause is not addressed.

If either type of sty appears infected, oral antibiotics may be necessary. This is particularly important if the infection is spreading along the skin (cellulitis) or spreading into the orbit (orbital cellulitis). Orbital cellulitis is considered an emergency, as rapidly spreading infection can threaten a person's vision and even a person's life and can require intravenous antibiotics.

In some situations, the infection spreads to the eye itself. Depending on what the eye doctor finds on careful slit lamp examination of the eye, topical antibiotics (drops or ointment) might be sufficient.

Treatment of the underlying cause of the sty is also important to prevent recurrence.

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