Eye Health

By Dr S.S. Gill

In our continuing series on Eye Health, Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talks to us about HORDEOLUM.

A hordeolum is an infection of the hair follicles of the eye lashes. It presents as a small painful bump on the outside (external hordeolum) or on the inside (internal hordeolum) of the eyelid. It is also called stye. It basically looks like a pimple on the eyelid (called ‘ketumbit’ in Bahasa Malaysia).

A hordeolum may occur at any age but most often affects infants and children. It is usually caused by a bacteria called staphylococcus. This bacterium is found in high concentrations within the nose and therefore is easily transferred to the eyelids by our unwashed fingers! Hordeolums are not harmful to vision but does cause a discomfort to the eye.

When the eyelash follicles get infected with the bacteria, it then becomes filled with pus and swells up. The eyelash follicle then looks like it has a pimple on the eyelid, becoming red and painful.


  • Redness in the affected eyelid area (initially may be mistaken for blepharitis).
  • Pain and droopiness of the affected eyelid.
  • Later, a pimple-like lump appears on the eyelid.
  • A yellow ‘pus point’ within the red lump when it becomes more filled with pus.
  • Tearing or watering of the eye, and increased sensitivity to light occasionally.
  • Later, crusting on the eyelashes if the stye ruptures and pus is expelled out.



  • Avoid rubbing your eyes especially if your hands are not clean.
  • Change eye make-up once every six months.
  • Do not share eye make-up.
  • Remove eye make-up completely before bedtime.
  • Wear goggles when doing ‘dusty’ chores.
  • Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizers when traveling to avoid picking up infections.
  • Keep conditions like diabetes mellitus and chronic skin conditions (seborrhoea) well treated or controlled.



Most hordeolum heal on their own within a few days. Warm compresses applied for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a day, over the course of several days helps to encourage resolution. It relieves the pain and helps ‘ripen’ the hordeolum very much like a pimple. The hordeolum usually ruptures to drain the pus collection and finally heals.

Remember never to ‘pop’ a hordeolum like a pimple; but always allow it to rupture on its own. The internal type of hordeolum (that appears inside the eyelid) may sometimes not heal and therefore require drainage of the pus by an eye doctor. You may then be prescribed an antibiotic eye ointment along with oral antibiotics depending on how severe it is. If you suspect you have a hordeolum that keeps on worsening, seek medical attention.

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