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A hordeolum is an infection of an eyelash follicle or a nearby gland. It is also known as a stye. The infection causes a red bump on the eyelid that may look like a pimple.
There are 2 types of hordeolums:
- External—occurs when the infection is external to the lash line
- Internal—occurs when the infection is inside of the lash line
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A hordeolum can form when the oil produced from a gland of the eyelid thickens and can no longer flow. If bacteria are trapped in the this gland or an eyelash follicle, an infection can develop. This can result in the development of fluid and pus. It is possible to have more than 1 hordeolum at a time. It is common for them to reoccur.
Factors that may increase the risk of developing a hordeolum include:
A hordeolum usually begins as a red and swollen area on or in the eyelid. Often, the area is tender and painful. In addition to the red, painful bump, some other symptoms of hordeola include:
- Tearing of the eye
- Blurred vision
- A sensation of a foreign body or itching in the eye
- Sometimes, there is a point or yellowish spot on the swollen area. This is where the discharge of pus will occur when the hordeolum drains.
Internal hordeola are usually more painful and are less likely to come to a point without the assistance of a doctor.
In most cases, a simple eye exam is all that is necessary to confirm the diagnosis of a hordeolum. Other than looking at your eye, special tests are not usually needed for diagnosis.
Often, hordeola resolve on their own. Treatment may include:
A warm compress is applied to the affected eyelid several times a day. It will assist with drainage.
Drainage of the lesion is the first step in treating the hordeolum. If the hordeolum does not drain on its own, your doctor may assist drainage of the infection by lancing the hordeolum. The pus and contents of the swollen area can then be drained. It is important never to try to lance the hordeolum without the assistance of a doctor. Permanent damage to the eye or eyelid can occur.
In some cases, antibiotics are also given to ensure that the entire infection is eliminated. Antibiotics may be given in oral form, or as eye drops/eye ointment. In many cases, antibiotics alone are ineffective.
To prevent the development of a hordeolum, consider the following:
- Always wash your hands before touching your eyes.
- Always use a clean facecloth when washing your face.
- Wash your eyelids with warm water and mild soap.
- Make sure your contacts are clean before putting them in.
- Wash hands after coming in contact with infected people.
- Never squeeze or poke your eye.
- Do not rub your eye.
- Do not share your makeup with anyone.
- Do not use old makeup.
- Replace eye makeup after your condition resolves.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Optometric Association
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Hordeolum. The Merck Manual: Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/eye%5Fdisorders/eyelid%5Fand%5Flacrimal%5Fdisorders/chalazion%5Fand%5Fhordeolum%5Fstye.html. Updated September 2014. Accessed May 9, 2016.
Hordeolum and chalazion treatment, the full gamut. Optometry Today website. Available at: https://pedclerk.bsd.uchicago.edu/sites/pedclerk.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/Treatment.pdf. Published June 28, 2002. Accessed May 9, 2016.
Hordeolum (stye). Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/pediatrics/hordeolum%5Fstye%5F85,P01075/. Accessed May 9, 2016.
Pasternak A, Irish B. Ophthalmologic infections in primary care. Clinics in Family Practice. 2004;6:19-633.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 05/2018
- Update Date: 05/26/2015