Causes and Treatments for Eyelid Bumps

close-up of a stye on a child's eye
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Does your child have a small red bump or swollen area on her eyelid? Most likely, it's something called a stye (also called a hordeolum) or a chalazion. These are common in children, usually easily treated, and rarely serious.

What Are Styes and Chalazia?

Our eyelids have hundreds of small oil glands near the eyelashes. These glands help to lubricate the eye; sometimes they can become blocked or infected, causing a small red bump. Here are the two most common causes of eyelid bumps in children:

  • Chalazia: When an oil gland becomes blocked, it is called a chalazion. A chalazion tends to look swollen, tender, red, and lumpy, and sometimes it can grow as large as a pea. 
  • Styes: When a gland becomes infected, it is called a stye, or hordeolum. The infection is generally caused by staphylococcal bacteria. It produces a red, swollen lump, but it can be smaller than a chalazion and it's usually located on the edge or the inside of the eyelid, closer to the surface of the eyelid. Styes tends to be painful, while chalazions usually aren't. 

Symptoms

Chalazion symptoms can include:

  • Blurry vision, if it is large enough to press on the eyeball
  • Crustiness along the eyelid margin
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Feeling like something is in your eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Painful red bump along the edge of the eyelid at the base of the eyelashes
  • Scratchy feeling in the eye
  • Small pus spot at the center of the bump (like a pimple)
  • Tearing in that eye

Stye symptoms can include:

  • Bump on the eyelid, sometimes becoming red and swollen and tender
  • An entirely swollen eyelid (rare)

Although most eyelid bumps are mild and harmless, some can indicate a more serious condition. Possible symptoms of a more serious issue include:

  • Blisters on the eyelid
  • Copious discharge from the eye
  • Color change to the white part of the eye
  • Eyelids that bump, bleed, get bigger or very painful
  • Scaly, crusty, or red eyelids
  • Sensitivity to even low light
  • Trouble seeing
  • Very watery eyes

How to Treat Styes and Chalazia

Your pediatrician can diagnose a stye or chalazion simply by looking at it. No other tests are necessary unless there is a concern that it's something more serious. Don’t try to squeeze or pop a stye or chalazion. This can increase the risk of infection and can also spread bacteria to the other eye.

A chalazion or stye will usually disappear on its own within a few days or weeks, but using warm compresses can speed healing. To make a warm compress, dip a washcloth in warm water (you can even throw some mild soap in there, to keep the eyelid clean), wring it out, and then have your child apply it to the affected area four to six times a day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

The warmth can be soothing, and, in the case of a chalazion, can loosen the hardened oil and allow it to drain. Styes that don't go away on their own may need to be treated with antibiotic eye drops or an antibiotic ointment. If the infection spreads outside the eye, the doctor may advise taking an oral antibiotic pill.

In rare cases, a doctor may need to drain a stye by using a small scalpel. Styes normally heal on their own within a few days or so after draining. Call your doctor if the stye doesn’t go away within one to two weeks.

A Word From Verywell

The best way to prevent styes and chalazia is by practicing good hygiene. Prevent the spread of bacteria by having your child wash his hands regularly and avoid touching his eyes in general. Neither chalazia nor styes are contagious, so having one should not prevent your child from attending school or being around other kids.

If your child has been using a warm compress several times a day for two consecutive days and you're not seeing any improvement, or if symptoms are becoming more severe or spreading to other parts of the face, call a pediatrician or a pediatric ophthalmologist (a children's eye doctor), as further treatment may be necessary.

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Article Sources
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  1. Lindsley K, Nichols JJ, Dickersin K. Non-surgical interventions for acute internal hordeolum. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;1:CD007742. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007742.pub4

  2. Arbabi EM, Kelly RJ, Carrim ZI. Chalazion. BMJ. 2010;341:c4044. doi:10.1136/bmj.c4044

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