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What to Do About Styes and Chalazia

Mark Rosenberg, M.D.

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You probably remember your mother telling you to take your vitamins or munch on carrots for healthy eyes. I'm not disputing this wisdom, but I have studied many eye conditions that can't be prevented with vitamins alone. For instance, most patients who suffer from styes and chalazia don't know about the natural treatments for these common eye ailments. Fortunately, there are several ways to make yourself more comfortable as you wait for eye trouble to run its course.

Lumps and Bumps on the Eyelids

Though the treatment of styes and chalazia is similar, they are two separate conditions with different causes. Styes are pimple-like bumps on the edge of the eyelid caused by a bacterial infection, usually staphylococcus bacterium. Though rarely serious, they can be irritating or painful. Chalazia are larger lumps inside the eyelid resulting from blocked oil glands. They are not often painful, but can cause vision problems if they grow large.

The lifespan of a stye is relatively short. Starting as a small pimple on the edge of the eyelid, it swells for approximately three days before it breaks open and drains on its own. You may experience irritation or pain as the stye grows, but it often heals on its own within one week. The evolution of a chalazion is more gradual, usually taking place over two to three months. As it grows, a firm lump forms under the skin, which may hamper vision. Swelling may spread to the area surrounding the eye. Like a stye, a chalazion will eventually clear up on its own over time.

Promote Quick Healing

Although both styes and chalazia tend to heal on their own, the waiting process can be less than pleasant. You can soothe irritation and encourage speedier healing by applying warm compresses to the eye area. A soft washcloth soaked in warm water is effective, but soaking your compress in herbal solutions can do even more to ease inflammation and pain. Make a “tea" from herbs like Goldenseal, Oregon Grape Root and acacia leaves and soak your compress in the warm liquid. Apply to the eye area for at least 5 minutes, 3 to 6 times per day. This will help a stye break open naturally or clear the oil glands.

Another remedy to ease swelling is a poultice made from grated potato. Place this on the eye and relax for several minutes. You can also soothe itchy and inflamed eyes with another pantry item. Boil whole coriander seeds in one cup of water to make an eye rinse that you can use 3 to 4 times per day.

It is very important not to pick or pop a stye or chalazion, as this could exacerbate the infection or inflammation. Rather, let nature take its course. In the meantime, refrain from wearing makeup or contact lenses, which could irritate the eye, until it is healed. To prevent these problems from recurring, avoid rubbing your eyes and wash your hands before touching your face so you don't transfer infection-causing bacteria to the area. You should also replace makeup at least every 6 months so bacteria doesn't have a chance to grow.

If you have chronic inflammation of the eyes that causes recurring styes and chalazia, do not hesitate to see your doctor. If a bump grows very quickly, bleeds or fails to improve, your doctor should be consulted right away. Lumps and bumps on the eyes are indeed a nuisance, but with proper natural care they can be treated effectively.

Mark Rosenberg, M. D.
Institute For Healthy Aging


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