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What Causes Hordeolum and How is it Treated?

What is Hordeolum?

Hordeolum is a common ophthalmologic medical condition which is characterized by an erythematous painful small pimple-like bump on the eyelid. It is commonly referred to as an external stye. Along with pain there is associated tenderness when touching the bump. There is no specific location for Hordeolum to occur as it may present itself anywhere around the eyelid, although in majority of cases they appear around the edge of the eye. Hordeolum is common among children and is rarely seen in adults.

Clogged oil glands around the eyes are believed to be the primary reason behind development of Hordeolum. The function of these glands is to keep the eyes moist. In addition to the bump over the eyelid, Hordeolum can also cause pain in the eyes, excessive tears flowing out of the eyes, and swelling of the eyelids.

Hordeolum is a benign condition and does not affect the vision of an individual in any form. In most cases self-treatment is good enough to get rid of this condition. This article highlights some of the potential causes for Hordeolum.

What Causes Hordeolum and How is it Treated?

What Causes Hordeolum?

The root cause as to why Hordeolum occurs is when the oil glands which lubricate the eyes get clogged. Clogging of these oil glands causes infection around the eyelids which results in the red blister to appear. The bacterium responsible for causing the infection is staphylococcus bacterium. They live around the eyelids but normally are not a cause for concern; however, when the oil glands get clogged due to dead skin cells and the area gets infected the bacterium gets trapped resulting in infection.

The main areas where Hordeolum may occur are the hair follicles of the eyelashes and the sebaceous glands where the hair follicles get attached to the gland. The function of the sebaceous gland is to keep the eye lubricated. The apocrine gland also gets affected with the infection causing Hordeolum. This gland also functions by lubricating the eyelids and prevents the eyes from becoming dry.

A person with history of chronic inflammatory eye infections is more likely to develop Hordeolum than the normal population. Rubbing the eyes with dirty hands is also one of the reasons why people develop Hordeolum. This is normally seen in children who tend to rub their eyes while playing.

How Is Hordeolum Treated?

Coming to the treatment, most cases of Hordeolum does not require treatment. There are many home remedies which can easily get rid of Hordeolum. The most preferred home remedy is warm compresses over the affected eye which calms down the inflammation and treats the infection. The warm compresses should be placed over the affected eye for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day for best effectiveness.

The heat allows any pus which may have been accumulated to drain thus treating the infection. An antibiotic cream may also be recommended if there are multiple blisters around the eyelids or in case if home remedies are ineffective in treating Hordeolum.

While an individual undergoes treatment for Hordeolum it is vital to avoid any unnecessary touching of the eye as it may spread the infection. For people who wear contact lenses and have Hordeolum then such individuals are recommended to avoid wearing contact lenses until the infection clears up and instead wear spectacles.

For females with Hordeolum, it is recommended to not put any makeup in the eyes until the infection clears to prevent worsening of the infection. Under extremely rare instances, a Hordeolum will have to be removed surgically if any of the above treatments are ineffective.

In summary, Hordeolum is a common condition in which small blisters form in the eyelids due to clogging of the oil glands by dead skin cells. The function of the oil glands is to lubricate the eye and prevent it from drying out. Adequate moisture is vital for the eye to function normally.

Clogging of the oil glands result in entrapment of bacteria which is what causes Hordeolum. This is a benign medical condition and can be easily treated at home with warm compresses applied for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day. In cases where these compresses are ineffective then antibiotic creams are given for treatment of the infection.

In extremely rare cases, surgery is done to remove the blisters seen with this condition. It is important for individuals with Hordeolum to keep the eye clean and not to touch them with dirty hands or use any contact lenses as this can lead to spread of infection.


  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2021). Styes and Chalazia: Eyelid Bumps. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-are-chalazia-styes
  2. National Eye Institute. (2019). Facts About Blepharitis. https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/blepharitis
  3. MedlinePlus. (2021). Stye. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000844.htm

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Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 24, 2023

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