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All Eyes on Styes

In my doctor world, I’m not really a very big girl when it comes to any eye stuff. Not sure what it is about eyes that gives me the heebie-jeebies, but it’s always been that way. Eyeballs. Maybe it’s the word.

ANYWAY, time for me to face my fears a little bit, and I’m writing about it today because I’ve seen several kids lately with eye problems—I’m not talking about the entire eyelid or vision issues—I mean styes and bumps & stuff. That drain. Especially along the lash line. They can really look like they distort the whole eye, and they often hurt, which is why parents bring their kids in urgently to be evaluated for this.

So you know what I’m talking about? –a raised, painful bump, often red, along the lash line of the eye.

There are some fancy 25 cent words here—everyone knows the word “stye” (external hordeolum) but what about “chalazion” (internal hordeolum)? A stye is an area of localized inflammation along the eyelid margin and a chalazion is similar but located within the middle of the eyelid and is an inflamed meibomiam (.25) gland, which is a tiny little glad that helps with tear production. These can get blocked, inflamed, and even infected, which results in the clinical picture described above.


Simply put, a stye is like a pimple on your eyelid. But, and I cannot stress this enough – DO NOT try “popping” it.


So you might be thinking that this is all just a fancy vocabulary build up to 2 magic words: eye drops, but in fact sometimes all that’s needed is supportive care. If the situation is chronic or there is lots of pus drainage then antibiotic eye drops could be indicated, but really the most important thing to do is keep the area clean and encourage draining so this can resolve all on its own.

I know what many of you are thinking

“But Dr. Christina, my little one will not let me put drops in their eyes.” Here’s my recommendation for that: let them do it with their eyes CLOSED. Yup. Have your kid lie down comfortably with their eyes relaxed and closed. You can put the drops into the inner corners of their eye (one at a time) and let your child blink them into their eyes afterwards. Works like a charm.

I don’t need eye drops. What else can I do?

1. Use warm compresses on the closed eye four times a day for 10-20 minutes. Tough to do in a young child, I’ll give you that. But give it the college try. Pro tip: if your kid is into it, you can use a warm (not hot!), wet tea bag instead. Perfect little size for the eye and they can sip on some of their favorite tea in the meantime.
2. Twice daily eyelash scrubs can really help too. Take a washcloth with some baby shampoo rubbed into it and scrub the base of the eyelashes with the eye closed. Channel your inner spa hero and this can be your ticket to preventing recurring hordeola [plural] (.25) as well.

When you have a stye…

• Wash your hands thoroughly.
• Don’t touch your eyes.
• If you wear contact lenses, don’t! That will irritate your eyes – switch to your eyeglasses ’til it’s gone.
• Best to also throw out your current contact lenses and switch to the next pair once it clears up.
• Avoid wearing eye makeup. It’s just another irritant and won’t help the healing process one bit.

Even though I make fun of myself for not being wild about the eye, I take any and all problems with them seriously. Eyes are not something to mess around with. We need those vital, creepy things. They actually are amazing.


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