When we think about eye health, and eye problems, most people’s thoughts turn to vision-related conditions. Yet there are other eye disease and conditions that aren’t directly related to the internal workings of the eye, yet they can still impact your vision as well as general eye comfort.
One of the more irritating things that can befall your eye, or more specifically the eyelid is a sty. Technically known as a hordeolum, a sty is essentially a localized infection in the tissues of the eyelid. Symptoms can vary in severity. Most of the time a sty manifests as a tender spot, that gradually develops into a red bump near the edge of the eyelid.
These infections are typically caused by bacteria. The two most common areas where they develop is either at the base of an eyelash, which is known as an external hordeolum or inside one of the eyelid’s small oil glands. This is known as an internal hordeolum. Most styes are caused by staphylococcal bacteria, which are widely known to cause serious skin infections.
It’s worth bearing in mind that styes are contagious, yet they don’t easily pass from one person to the other. Most of the time they don’t affect visual acuity beyond maybe the small bump obscuring a tiny amount of your visual range. However, a stye can sometimes occur with another eye health condition. A stye on its own usually heals with time.
Stye Symptoms And Personal Habits
Sometimes a stye can creep up on you. It might start out seeming like a little irritation or might even be confused as a little bit of dry eye. Early signs that a stye has started to develop typically include localized pain, redness, tenderness and swelling at the edge of the eyelid.
A stye is typically caused by staphylococcal bacteria that are introduced to the eyes when you rub, touch, or wipe your nose, then rub your eye. Pretty much every human being has staphylococcal bacteria on their body. This means you could develop a stye at any age without outside contamination
Visually a stye looks like a small pimple on the eyelid. Especially an external stye that affects an eyelash. With some cases, symptoms can worsen causing swollen eyes. In a severe case, the entire eyelid might swell, look puffy, and feel irritated.
When you have a stye, good personal hygiene is important. You don’t want bacteria present on your hands or from your eye to come in contact with someone else’s eyes, as it is technically contagious. It’s best to keep your eyes and hands clean. When it comes to household family members, you shouldn’t share pillowcases, bedsheets, washcloths or towels with each other.
Stye Treatment And Healing
Most of the time a stye will heal on its own. It usually takes a few days for your body’s immune system to fully eliminate the bacterial presence. You can help speed the process and potentially reduce irritation by lightly applying a warm compress to the affected eye for 10 to 15 minutes at a time for up to five times per day.
Most styes will develop a head that looks very similar to a pimple. With time the stye will rupture, drain and heal without any effort from you. You should never attempt to pop a stye on your own. This could cause more serious and unnecessary complications.
There are a few rare occasions where a stye develops inside the eyelid. Some of these internal hordeolum may not rupture or heal on their own. A style like this can be more serious, and your eye doctor may need to carefully open it to safely drain the bacterial fluid.
If you have been struggling with frequent styes, your eye doctor might prescribe a special type of antibiotic ointment that is specifically designed to help fight bacterial eye infections There are also pre-moistened eyelid cleansing pads that are meant for daily use. They are designed to improve eyelid hygiene to reduce future problems with styes and other conditions like blepharitis.
Styes And Other Eye Health Issues
There are other eye health issues can develop in conjunction with a stye. You might notice the eye frequently watering and developing increasing sensitivity to light. Sometimes this kind of irritation might also cause what’s known as a “Foreign Body Sensation” as if there was something trapped inside your eye or eyelid.
If you have been experiencing symptoms like this, or your stye is causing significant discomfort, you should contact your eye doctor. Especially if your stye has not started to improve after a few days, or the eyelid is experiencing significant swelling or puffiness.
Eyelid Bumps That Aren’t A Stye
It’s important to keep in mind that there are other things that can cause a bump on or around your eyelid that isn’t as benign as a stye. Some can be quite serious and require your eye doctor’s timely attention.
What Is Chalazia?
A chalazion is sometimes mistaken for being a stye. It is an enlarged and blocked oil gland in the eyelid. At first, a chalazion might mimic the symptoms and appearance of a stye. Then a few days later it hardens into a relatively painless round bump.
Chalazia tend to develop farther from the eyelid edge than most common styes. Applying a warm compress for 10 to 15 minutes up to five times per day might help address a chalazion. However, they tend to remain much longer than a stye.
If you have a hard bump that lasts longer than a month, you will likely need to have your eye doctor drain it. This treatment strategy might also call for a localized steroid injection to help speed the healing process.
What Is Milia?
Sometimes referred to as Oil Seeds of Milk Spots, a Milia is actually a small white cyst that appears on the outer skin layer or the eyelid. They can also be found in other patches of skin around the eyes as well as the nose.
Milia occur when dead skin cells aren’t shed effectively by the skin’s natural process of exfoliation. These cells then become trapped at the base of a hair follicle or sweat gland, which develops as a raised pinhead-looking bump. Some are even mistaken for whitehead pimples. They are more common with newborns and babies then they are in full grown adults. They tend to clear up on their own in small children. However, an adult that has a milia for more than a week or two will likely need medical intervention.
What Is Xanthelasma?
This is technically a subtype of xanthoma, which is a skin condition that is characterized by yellowish bumps, or plaque buildup under the skin. They can occur on or around the eyelids. Xanthelasma typically manifests as a disc-like lesion that has a flat surface with well-defined borders. It can range in size from a few millimeters to as large as three inches.
Xanthelasma is caused by a build-up of fats, like cholesterol, under the surface of the epidermis. They are often are attributed to elevated lipid levels in the bloodstream which is indicative of high cholesterol. This type of growth is non-cancerous. However, elevated blood lipids levels could increase your chances to develop cardiovascular disease.