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Styes and Chalazia: Care Instructions

Picture of a chalazion


Styes and chalazia (say "kuh-LAY-zee-uh") are both conditions that can cause swelling of the eyelid.

A stye is an infection in the root of an eyelash. The infection causes a tender red lump on the edge of the eyelid. The infection can spread until the whole eyelid becomes red and inflamed. Styes usually break open, and a tiny amount of pus drains. They usually clear up on their own in about a week, but they sometimes need treatment with antibiotics.

A chalazion is a lump or cyst in the eyelid (chalazion is singular; chalazia is plural). It is caused by swelling and inflammation of deep oil glands inside the eyelid. Chalazia are usually not infected. They can take a few months to heal.

If a chalazion becomes more swollen and painful or does not go away, you may need to have it drained by your doctor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Do not squeeze or try to open a stye or chalazion.
  • To help a stye or chalazion heal faster:
    • Put a warm, moist compress on your eye for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 6 times a day. Heat often brings a stye to a point where it drains on its own. Keep in mind that warm compresses will often increase swelling a little at first.
    • Do not use hot water or heat a wet cloth in a microwave oven. The compress may get too hot and can burn the eyelid.
  • If the doctor gave you antibiotic drops or ointment, use the medicine exactly as directed. Use the medicine for as long as instructed, even if your eye starts to feel better.
  • To put in eyedrops or ointment:
    • Tilt your head back, and pull your lower eyelid down with one finger.
    • Drop or squirt the medicine inside the lower lid.
    • Close your eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drops or ointment move around.
    • Do not touch the ointment or dropper tip to your eyelashes or any other surface.
  • Do not wear eye makeup or contact lenses until the stye or chalazion heals.
  • Do not share towels, pillows, or face cloths while you have a stye.

What can you do to prevent styes and chalazia?

Here are some things you can do to prevent styes and chalazia.

  • Don't rub your eyes. This can irritate your eyes and let in bacteria. If you need to touch your eyes, wash your hands first.
  • Protect your eyes from dust and air pollution when you can. For example, wear safety glasses when you do dusty chores like raking or mowing the lawn.
  • Remove eye makeup before you go to sleep. Replace eye makeup, especially mascara, at least every 6 months. Bacteria can grow in makeup.
  • If you get styes or chalazia often, wash your eyelids regularly with a little bit of baby shampoo mixed in warm water.
  • Treat any inflammation or infection of the eyelid promptly.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain in your eye.
  • You have a change in vision or loss of vision.
  • Redness and swelling get much worse.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your stye does not get better in 1 week.
  • Your chalazion does not start to get better after several weeks.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.