Consultant Ophthalmologist,
Cataract & Refractive Surgeon

BMedSci BM BS MRCS MRCSEd MRCOpth FRCOphth MMedLaw PgD Cataract & Refractive Surgery


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What’s going on?

There are about 20 glands lining the upper and lower lids. These release some fat for the tear film. This microscopic layer of fat floats over the top of the tears and stops them evaporating too quickly. One of the orifices of these glands has become blocked and the fatty secretions build up within it and create a cyst. This is usually painless and does not cause many symptoms. If the cyst ruptures or leaks into the surrounding lid tissue, it causes inflammation with localised redness and pain – not very nice. In most situations this is not infection. If the redness spreads beyond the immediate area of the cyst it can mean that proper infection has occurred requiring antibiotics.

What will my ophthalmologist see?

A firm lump, usually the size of a pea or grape, within the upper or lower lid.

What will my ophthalmologist do for me?

Warm bathing is the key to management. Heating the fatty secretion should cause it to flow more freely and discharge spontaneously.

If despite warm bathing, the cyst gets bigger and becomes extremely painful and red, you may require a surgical procedure to drain it. There is no hard and fast rule about how large a cyst must be before it warrants surgical intervention. Conservative measures should be used initially, with or without systemic antibiotics.

What can I do?

Warm bathe, warm bathe, warm bathe!

What do I need to know?

The condition can recur so you should bathe the eyes with warm water regularly (usually daily), to prevent further episodes.

There is usually no need for topical antibiotic drops in this condition.

A stye is actually an infection of the hair follicles and is different to a chalazion.