When To Consider Stye Removal Surgery

Mar 20, 2023
 – Besser Eye Care Team
  • Eye Health

Styes are a common bacterial infection near the eyelid. Learn more about styes, stye removal, and stye surgery.

If a patient notices a red bump near the lash of their eye, they may have a stye. A stye is a common bacterial infection in the eye. While styes may be uncomfortable, they typically go away on their own. However, enduring styes may require stye removal surgery. Learning more about styes and their symptoms can help patients and doctors choose the best treatment.

What is a stye?

A stye is a bacterial infection at the base of the eyelash follicle. It looks like a localized red lump that resembles a pimple forming on the eyelid. Styes are often sensitive to pressure and can get inflamed and become painful when touched.

Styes form when the oil glands in the eyelid become blocked. Glands in the eyelid typically produce an oily substance that helps create the natural tears in our eyes. These blocked glands can cause a bacterial infection that develops into a stye.

Types of styes

There are two types of styes:

  • External hordeolum - A stye that forms on the eye's exterior. These are typically caused by an infection in the hair follicle.

  • Internal hordeolum - This type of stye forms on the eyelid. They are typically caused by inflammation in the eye’s oil-producing glands.

Stye symptoms

The most common stye symptoms include:

  • Presence of a painful bump at the edge of the eyelid — which can make the entire eye swell

  • Small puss spots at the center of the bump

  • A feeling like there is something in the eye

  • Having a scratching feeling in the eye

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Crust along the margin of the eyelid

  • Tearing in the eye

Are styes and chalazions the same?

Styes are often confused with a similar-looking bump called a chalazion. Both styes and chalazions appear red, cause some pain, and can result in a swollen eyelid. However, they have different causes and treatments.

Styes are caused by bacterial infections that occur in the eyelash. A chalazion is not a bacterial infection. It occurs when the meibomian gland in the eye becomes blocked. This blockage causes fluid to leak into surrounding tissues, which triggers an inflammatory response.

Do styes go away on their own?

An untreated stye often improves on its own in a few days. However, in certain cases, patients may need additional treatment — including stye removal surgery.

Patients can treat persistent styes by putting a warm washcloth on their eyelid for 10-15 minutes, 3-5 times a day. This method helps soften the fluids inside the stye, allowing it to drain.

If the stye does not recede, an ophthalmologist may recommend an antibiotic for the infected eye.

Stye in Eye

When patients need stye removal surgery

When a stye does not improve on its own or with medical treatment, patients may need eye surgery.

Signs a patient may need stye removal surgery include:

  • The stye does not respond to other treatments

  • It causes intense pain or visual disruption

  • Develops into a serious infection known as superficial cellulitis

  • Eyelids begin to feel heavy

  • There are fears the infection is spreading

Stye surgery is often considered a last resort.

What is stye removal surgery?

During this procedure, a surgeon makes an incision in the stye and drains it.

At the beginning of stye surgery, the patient will receive an anesthetic to numb their eyelid. Next, the surgeon will put a clamp in the center of the stye to hold the eyelids in place. From there, the surgeon will perform an incision overlying the lesion to remove the content of the stye.

The doctor will typically leave the incision open to allow residual material from the lesion to drain. In the following hours, they may patch the eyelid with ointment to seal it up.

Recovery from stye removal surgery

Stye surgery is an effective method for stye removal, with an extremely high success rate. Some patients may experience mild discomfort following surgery. To help alleviate this, your surgeon may provide post-surgery instructions to facilitate a quick and smooth recovery.

Patients can hasten their recovery by:

  • Applying a compress over their eye in the days following surgery

  • Regularly using any medications or eye drops their doctor prescribes

  • Washing eyelids with soap and warm water

  • Waiting for a full recovery to perform daily activities that may put the eye at risk

Stye removal surgery complications

Stye surgery is generally a safe and effective surgery. In rare cases, complications can occur with certain patients.

Some risks that can occur with stye surgery are:

  • Infection

  • Recurrence of styes

  • Bleeding

  • Lid scarring


If you’re in the Los Angeles area and would like more information about styes and stye removal surgery, please contact Dr. Besser's office for a consultation.

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