Blog Hero

Blepharitis vs Styes: What are the Differences?

Book Appointment
A close-up of an eye with a stye.

When it comes to eye health, understanding the signs and distinctions between different conditions is crucial. Blepharitis and styes are two common eye issues often mistaken for one another due to their similar symptoms. Both can cause irritation, dry eyes, and pain. 

Blepharitis is a condition caused by inflammation that causes redness, irritation, and crusty debris at the base of eyelashes or eyelids. Styes, a red, painful lump near the eyelid edge, are commonly caused by blockage or bacterial infections in the eyelid oil glands and often affect individuals who frequently touch their eyes.

While blepharitis can’t be cured, both blepharitis and styes can be managed with in-office or at-home treatments. Foresee Eyecare is here to explain the differences between the two and discuss some common treatments so that you stay confident in your eye health. 

What Is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is an inflammatory condition of the eyelids that causes redness, irritation, and crusty debris at the base of the eyelashes. It’s typically chronic and can affect anyone regardless of age. It occurs in two forms

  • Anterior blepharitis: Causes inflammation at the base of the eyelashes. Typically it occurs because of excessive amounts of bacteria, particularly staphylococcus. 
  • Posterior blepharitis: Causes inflammation of the waterline. Typically it occurs alongside skin conditions like acne or dermatitis. 

Malfunctioning oil glands in the eyelids, mites, and allergic reactions can also cause blepharitis. 

How to Manage Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a chronic condition with no cure and can only be managed. Luckily, various options are available to treat your blepharitis alongside eye doctor supervision. 

At-Home Remedies 

Warm compresses applied to the eyes can help loosen the crust on your eyelids and relieve swelling. Gently wiping your eyelids with a mix of water and baby shampoo or an over-the-counter eyelid cleaner also helps maintain clean eyelids. Eye drops are an excellent option to soothe irritants and reduce redness. 

Professional Treatments

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic ointments or steroid eye drops for persistent or severe blepharitis. Eyelid scrubs (usually medicated) are a common way to control blepharitis that impacts daily life. Occasionally, blepharitis can be managed through more intensive in-office treatments, like BlephEx or intense pulsed light (IPL) therapies, which can reduce oil build-up and improve tear production. 

A woman washing her hands to prevent styes.

How to Manage Styes

Styes, medically known as hordeolum, are red, painful lumps near the edge of the eyelid that may look like boils or pimples. They are caused by bacterial infections in the eyelid’s oil glands and commonly affect individuals who frequently touch their eyes, especially without washing their hands.

Styes are visible and feel sore, resulting in a swollen eyelid and blinking discomfort. The best treatment for styes is prevention, primarily through good hand hygiene and avoiding touching your eyes. However, if you do get a stye, there are a few things you can do about it: 

  • Warm compresses.  We recommended heat compresses that can be microwaved or charged to therapeutic temperatures and stay hot enough to have good contact time.  Applying for 15 minutes about 3-4 times a day should bring the stye to a head, where it will either drain on its own or need to be expressed by a doctor. Avoid draining your stye yourself, as it can spread infection. 
  • Gentle massages of swollen eyes with clean hands, particularly after a warm compress, can help unclog a blocked gland. 

Professional Treatments

Styes that do not clear up on their own might need to be treated by a professional. Primarily, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics to promote healing. However, incision and drainage or lancing might be necessary for stubborn styes. Both options necessitate professional supervision and should not be attempted at home. 

What We Can Do to Help

At Foresee Eyecare, the specifics matter. While blepharitis and styes may share similarities, their causes, treatments, and remedies differ. In practising preventive care, remember to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes. We can help you manage blepharitis through in-office and at-home remedies. 

Regular eye exams are a vital screening process for blepharitis, styes, and related conditions. We want to help support your vision, so book an appointment today

Written by
Dr. Timothy H. Tsang

More Articles By
Dr. Timothy H. Tsang

Take a Peek Inside Our Practice

Step right in.

Join us for a friendly conversation, explore our stylish optical collection, and experience a team that genuinely cares about you and your family. 

Our Brands

  • Anne & Valentin
  • Blackfin
  • Burberry
  • Carrera
  • DITA
  • Dior
  • Fendi
  • Etnia Barcelona
  • Kliik
  • Lindberg
  • ic Berlin
  • MODO
  • Maui Jim
  • Nano
  • OTP
  • OGA
  • Prada
  • Saint Laurent
  • Ray-Ban
  • Starck
  • Silhouette
  • Tom Ford
  • Tiffany
  • Tomato Glasses
  • WEWE

Visit Our Location

Our office can be found off of Major MacKenzie Drive West in the same plaza as the Medical Centre and Tim Hortons. The location of our office is 965 Major Mackenzie Dr. West, Units 3 & 4.

Hours of Operation

9:00 AM 6:00 PM
10:00 AM 7:00 PM
9:00 AM 6:00 PM
10:00 AM 7:00 PM
9:00 AM 3:00 PM
10:00 AM 4:00 PM

Our Address

  • 965 Major Mackenzie Dr. West, Units 3 & 4
  • Vaughan, ON L6A 4P8

Contact Information

*Friday by appointment only.

**We are closed on the Saturdays of long weekends and holidays.

instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax