Milia, styes, and chalazia are three common types of bumps that occur under your eyes or on the eyelids. The bumps can be uncomfortable and look unattractive, but they are not always cause for concern. (Learn More) Some bumps, however, can become increasingly painful and require medical attention.
Milia are white, yellowish, or skin-colored bumps on the skin that commonly occur under the eyes. They are not painful or dangerous and often clear up on their own. Treatment options are available for people with extensive milia or for those who have concerns about how the bumps look. (Learn More)
A stye is a painful bump that can form on the lower or upper eyelid. Since they are usually caused by a bacterial infection at the root of an eyelash, styes may require medical attention. (Learn More)
Chalazia look very similar to styes, but they are typically not painful. They are not caused by a bacterial infection.
Chalazia are red bumps on the base of the eyelid. They can become tender to the touch, but they usually clear up on their own within a few weeks. (Learn More) At-home remedies are often sufficient to treat chalazia.
While you can self-diagnose some of these eye problems at home, you shouldn’t put off seeing an eye doctor when necessary. If bumps under your eyes are painful, symptoms become worse, or the problem doesn’t clear up after four weeks or so, it is time to seek professional help. (Learn More)
Bumps Under the Eyes
If you get bumps on the skin under your eyes, be aware that it’s often a benign condition. Many types of bumps under the eyes, such as milia, are painless and relatively harmless. If you don’t mind their appearance, you can usually live with milia until they clear up on their own.
Other types of bumps, like styes, can become very painful and should be addressed by a medical professional. While these bumps are not likely to threaten your vision, the bacterial infection could worsen over time if you don’t seek proper treatment.
Maintaining proper eye hygiene promotes overall eye health and can help to limit these types of bumps. If you experience persistent and painful symptoms, they should not be ignored. Consult a doctor.
Milia are small bumps that appear on the skin, often under the eyes. They are very common and typically not dangerous.
These bumps are formed by keratin that is trapped under the skin. They can be white, yellowish, or skin-colored. Some people call militia milk spots due to their whitish appearance. These bumps are small spots or cysts, and they are not a type of acne.
Milia form when skin cells die off, and the keratin from those cells collects in a pore and becomes trapped. It is not clear why some people are more at risk for developing milia than others.
Causes of milia include:
- Trauma to the skin.
- Cosmetic procedures.
- Topical medications.
People of all ages and genders can get milia. They can occur anywhere on the skin, though they commonly appear on the eyelids, nose, cheeks, and under the eyes. Up to 50 percent of newborns have milia that clear up on their own after a few weeks. Older children and adults also get milia.
It is less likely that milia will entirely clear up on their own in older people, though they may slowly dissipate within a few months. The bumps are harmless, so many people don’t treat them.
If you wish to get rid of your milia, treatment options include:
- Exfoliation of the skin.
- Chemical peels.
- In-office removal by a doctor, including extraction with a needle or laser ablation.
- Cryotherapy to freeze and destroy the milia.
The goal of each treatment option is to clear out the keratin that has built up in your pores and caused milia to form. If the spots are close to your eyes, special consideration must be given to which treatment option you select, as you must be extra cautious around the eyes.
Styes are small, red bumps that grow under the eye. They form at the base of your eyelashes or underneath the eyelid.
Styes are typically caused by a bacterial infection at the root of the eyelash. They can become quite painful, especially as they swell.
Symptoms of styes include:
- A painful red bump at the base of your eyelashes.
- A spot of pus at the center of the bump.
- The sense of something being in your eye.
- Scratchy feeling in your eye.
- Sensitivity to light.
- Crusty eyelid.
- Tearing of the infected eye.
Anyone can develop a stye under their eye. People who have blepharitis and certain skin conditions, such as rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis, are at an increased risk for developing styes. Additionally, medical problems like diabetes increase the risk of styes.
It is important to seek medical treatment for a stye in order to treat the bacterial infection. An ophthalmologist can confirm you have a stye and then provide appropriate antibiotics to treat the infection.
If your stye is persistent and affecting your vision, surgical intervention may be necessary. Local anesthesia can be used to allow your eye doctor to drain the stye.
If a stye recurs, a biopsy may be necessary to rule out any underlying eye problems.
Similar to styes, chalazia are small red lumps that form under the eye, in the eyelid. They are caused by blockage of an oil gland that then begins to swell. Unlike styes, a chalazion is not usually caused by a bacterial infection and rarely becomes as painful.
Symptoms of chalazia include:
- A red, tender, swollen bump on the eye.
- Mild eye irritation.
- Blurred vision, when the chalazion is large enough.
Chalazia occur most commonly in adults, although children can get them. Most frequently, chalazia occur in people between the ages of 30 and 50. People with pre-existing conditions, such as acne rosacea, blepharitis, seborrhea, tuberculosis, and viral infections, are more at risk for developing chalazia.
Fortunately, chalazia typically clear up on their own within a few weeks or a month. They usually don’t require medical treatment, though they can be recurring.
Treatment of chalazia is focused on applying warm compresses to the eyes and gently massaging the external eyelids in order to promote proper drainage of the oil glands.
Self-Diagnosis & When to See a Doctor
You may attempt to self-diagnose bumps under your eyes, but it’s generally best to see a doctor to confirm your suspicions.
At-home measures, such as applying warm compresses and following proper eye care hygiene steps, can promote general eye health. If symptoms of a condition get worse or do not heal within a month, you should contact a doctor.
Ophthalmologists and dermatologists stress that patients should not attempt to “pop” or squeeze milia, styes, or chalazia. Doing so can damage the skin, increase your risk of infection, and cause scarring.
Seek care from an eye or skin professional to receive a correct diagnosis and get proper treatment of the problem.
Chalazion. American Optometric Association.
Milia. (March 2017). Medscape.
What Are Chalazia and Styes? (August 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
What to Know About Milia Under the Eye. (October 2019). Medical News Today.
Chalazion. Cleveland Clinic.