Eyelid bumps appear as painful, red lumps at the edge of the eyelid, typically where the lash meets the lid. Bacteria or a blockage in the oil glands of the eyelid causes most eyelid bumps.
Eyelid bumps are often harmless and don’t always require medical treatment. They often go away on their own or with basic home care. However, if an eyelid bump becomes increasingly painful, doesn’t respond to home treatments, or begins to interfere with your vision, you may want to talk to your doctor about ways to manage your symptoms or to look for signs of a more serious problem.
There are three types of common eyelid bumps. The type and underlying cause of your eyelid bump will determine the best course of treatment.
A stye is the most common type of eyelid bump. Styes occur when bacteria get into the oil glands in the eyelids. A stye is a round, red bump that appears close to your eyelashes. It can make your eyelid feel sore. A stye can also cause you to be sensitive to light and make your eye watery or feel scratchy. It typically takes a few days for a stye to form, and you may have more than one at a time.
A chalazion is an inflammatory lesion that occurs when the oil-producing glands or tear gland in the eyelids become blocked. A chalazion usually grows further on your eyelid than a stye. It’s painless in most cases. It can interfere with your vision depending on where it grows and how big it gets.
Xanthelasma are harmless, yellow bumps that occur when certain fats build up under the skin. These bumps tend to appear in older adults. In some cases, they indicate high cholesterol levels.
Eyelid Bump Causes
A stye usually stems from an infection in an eyelid oil gland or eyelash follicle. Stress and hormonal changes can also cause it.
A chalazion happens when a tiny part of your eyelid called a meibomian gland becomes blocked. You can also get it from a stye that is no longer infected but has left hardened material stuck in a gland.
Blepharitis, a condition that causes your eyelids to become inflamed, often is linked to styes and chalazia. So is rosacea, a skin condition. Skin cancer also can cause styes and chalazia, though this is rare.
Xanthelasma can be a sign of cholesterol problems. They’re common in people who have a liver disorder called primary biliary cirrhosis. They may also happen in people who have skin conditions such as erythroderma, dermatosis, and contact dermatitis.
Milia happen when dead cells get trapped under your skin. Skin damage can also cause secondary or traumatic milia.
Most eyelid bumps appear as red or skin-colored lumps, and they typically occur along the edge of the eyelid. Sometimes, they can be tender. Other symptoms include red, watery eyes, a gritty, scratchy sensation in the eye and sensitivity to light.
Although most eyelid bumps are mild or harmless, some can indicate a more serious condition. You should see your doctor if any of the following occur:
- you’re having trouble seeing
- your eyes are extremely watery
- there’s copious discharge from your eye
- the white part of your eye changes color
- your eyes hurt even in low lighting
- your eyelid bump bleeds, gets worse, grows very big, or is very painful
- your eyelid is scaly, crusty, or red, which can indicate an infection
- your eyelid has blisters, which can indicate an infection
If a stye or chalazion doesn’t go away over time with home care, you should have a doctor look at it to make sure it’s not a sign of a more serious medical condition or to discuss options to treat it.
Treatment for Blepharitis
While there’s no cure for blepharitis, here’s what you can do to ease symptoms.
- Warm Compresses: Placing a clean, wet, warm washcloth over your eyes for a minute or two will loosen any flakes that have stuck to your eyelashes and will prevent clogging of nearby oil glands, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- Eyelid Scrubs: Gently massage a warm, damp washcloth or cotton swab at the base of your eyelashes for half a minute.
- Antibiotics: Your ophthalmologist may offer you an antibiotic ointment prescription to apply to the site with a clean fingertip or cotton swab. You may also before be prescribed oral antibiotics. Your eye doctor can discuss the best course of action with you.
- Eye Drops: Artificial tears or steroid eye drops may help keep the swelling, dry eye and redness down.
- Skin and Eyelid Hygiene: Keep your skin, hair and eyelids clean, washing your eyelashes daily with baby shampoo, and your hair, scalp and eyebrows with an antibacterial shampoo.
Styes occur when bacteria enter and inflame your oil glands.
Your risk of having styes increases if you have a condition called blepharitis, which is inflammation of the eyelash follicles.
A chalazion can form when the oil glands in your eyelids are blocked. Styes that don’t drain can turn into chalazia.
Xanthelasma occur when you have collections of fat just below the surface of the skin. They can sometimes indicate that you have an underlying condition that causes high cholesterol, such as diabetes. They can also form without a connection to any medical conditions.
Your doctor can diagnose a stye or chalazion by looking at it. Depending on the location, your doctor may quickly flip your eyelid over to take a closer look. No other tests are necessary unless there’s a concern that you may have a different medical problem.
Don’t try to squeeze or pop a stye or chalazion. This can increase your risk of infection and can also spread bacteria to your other eye. You can treat a stye at home by holding a warm compress on it for 10 minutes up to four times per day. Heat and compression can help drain the stye, loosen blockages in the oil gland, and aid in healing.
Xanthelasma don’t require home care.
If you have a large stye, your doctor might need to puncture it to drain the infected fluid. If you keep getting styes or have ones that won’t go away, your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic cream to put on your eyelid.
Surgery may be an option if you have a large chalazion that doesn’t go away on its own. Your doctor might give you antibiotic eye drops to use before and after surgery to treat or prevent infection. This is usually done in the doctor’s office. Anti-inflammatory steroid injections can relieve swelling.
You can have a xanthelasma surgically removed if its appearance bothers you. Otherwise, no treatment is necessary.
Styes normally heal on their own after draining, which usually takes a few days to a week. Call your doctor if the stye doesn’t go away within one to two weeks. You might also get more styes after the initial one heals.
A chalazion usually disappears within a week to a month when treated at home, but you should let your doctor know if it keeps getting bigger or isn’t improving at all with warm compresses after a couple of weeks.
Xanthelasma are harmless, but you should talk to your doctor about testing for underlying conditions.
How can I prevent an eyelid bump?
Practicing good hygiene can help reduce your risk of getting a stye. Prevent the spread of bacteria with regular hand washing and don’t touch your eyes unless you’ve just washed your hands with hot, soapy water.
You can help prevent chalazia by rinsing your eyelids once per day if you have blepharitis. You should also put a warm compress on your eyelid as soon as it feels irritated.
When to See Your Doctor
If you have a large, painful stye or chalazion that doesn’t go away, see an eye doctor. They may prescribe an antibiotic to help clear it up.
In severe cases, your doctor can drain the bump and give you antibiotics or a steroid injection to help it heal.
If the bump is an unusual color or seems to be changing color or shape, see your doctor right away.
If you have a lot of milia or if you’re worried about how they look, your doctor can remove them. Talk to your pediatrician if your baby has milia that don’t go away within 3 months.