What are these tiny bumps that form on my eyelid?
June 6, 2007 8:04 AM   Subscribe

What are these tiny bumps that form on the edge of my eyelid?

For some period of time now (years, decades), I have been occasionally been getting these tiny little bumps on the edge of my eyelid, right up against the eye (between the eyelashes and my eye). They don't seem like styes.

Here are some characteristics:
tiny (less than one mm, smaller than your average keyboard '.')
clear (most like a blister)
not red at all.

They are particularly irritating, as they rub against my eye and make it feel like there is an eyelash rubbing. Not exceptionally painful, but it will make my eye water.

I have, however, found that if I kind of scrape at it with my fingernail (I know, fingernails and eyes are probably bad things to get close to one another), that it will "pop" or what have you and then be gone immediately, leaving little trace of their prior existence. If I don't do anything, they go away in a period of time from about 8-24 hours.
posted by that girl to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This is probably of no use to you, but interesting nonetheless: I occasionally get exactly what you described in my mouth.
posted by 4ster at 8:05 AM on June 6, 2007

Maybe they're styes?
posted by box at 8:10 AM on June 6, 2007

Is it a stye? If so you should get it removed by a dermatologist/ophthalmologist. You don't want to slip and mess up.
posted by jourman2 at 8:12 AM on June 6, 2007

From the question: 'They don't seem like styes.'
posted by edd at 8:14 AM on June 6, 2007

(I am not a doctor)

Possibly milia
posted by junkbox at 8:19 AM on June 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Maybe skin tags?
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:21 AM on June 6, 2007

I get those too (and have been getting them for at least a decade, I'm 29 now)

They're so irritating I don't think I could ever leave them on for any period of time.

I use the hoop end of a bobby pin to get them off (pull the eyelid away from the eye, and then put the hoop over the bump and then pull forward to scrape it off). I sometimes get a few on one eye at a time.

I'll be watching this thread with interest!
posted by davey_darling at 8:28 AM on June 6, 2007

I get those too. They're not styes, and not milia-- they're full of clear fluid, not puss or whatever the white stuff is. I also get them on my arms and hands when my allergies are bad, so I just figured they were an allergy thing.

Not very helpful, but it's all I got.
posted by doubtful_guest at 8:28 AM on June 6, 2007

I get these bumps alot, too. Mostly on top eyelid, sometimes on bottom. They breakdown the tearfilm irritating the hell out of me. I use warm compresses to massage the goo out, as it were.
posted by ick at 8:29 AM on June 6, 2007

Could be a clogged gland under the eyelid. It's mostly harmless. A warm compress for 10-15 minutes a day will help.
posted by COD at 8:29 AM on June 6, 2007

Oh, and if you look up images online, you'll see severe cases usually. Here's two milder images.
posted by ick at 8:40 AM on June 6, 2007

As I stated in the question, I'm pretty sure they're not styes. There's no swelling, no redness, no pussy-ness, and they don't last nearly long enough. The bumps themselves do not hurt, just their rubbing up against my eye.

Compresses don't help because they're just little bubbles next to my eye. davey_darling and doubtful_guest seem to be on the right track (davey's way of dealing with them closely matches my own).
posted by that girl at 8:40 AM on June 6, 2007

I get these as well - sometimes on my eyelids, but also sometimes on other places; my neck and armpit are some of the most recent areas I can think off. But mine are completely goo-free; they don't really pop, but they are relatively easy to remove with a pair of nail-clippers (the ones on my neck and arm, anyway).

The 'skin tag' thing seems to describe exactly what mine look and feel like.
posted by cgg at 8:42 AM on June 6, 2007

Yep, mine are tiny bubbles right next to eye as well. I scratch them off and if I can't get close enough to scratch, I use warm compresses. They do actually help, even though I didn't think they would...
posted by ick at 8:44 AM on June 6, 2007

I get these, too. They feel exactly like an eyelash poking you in the eye. I also scrape them.
posted by peep at 8:46 AM on June 6, 2007

I get them too, but have never been able to break one - ow! Nothing in ick's link to blepharitis symptoms sounds familiar, though, especially since I have never had styes (ow also; styes would be much worse). Milia actually sound closer, but the linked description's pretty vague.

doubtful_guest, you sure the eye bumps and the arm bumps are the same? I have always been mystified by the eye bumps but am now pretty sure my recurring arm bumps are keratosis pilaris.
posted by clavicle at 8:49 AM on June 6, 2007

I know exactly what you're talking about. I get them, too, and I asked my eye doctor about them.

He says they're a reaction to a build-up of just everyday gunk (dirt, bacteria, dust, etc.), and that washing your eyes out every night (with solution, or just splashing water) will help to minimize them. I've never got around to trying this, and I usually just try to pop them like you said.

This description seems to be consistent with the second image ick links to (blocked meibomian glands), though further searches do produce pretty severe cases.

ugh, now my eyes are itching self-consciously
posted by toomanyplugs at 8:49 AM on June 6, 2007

Here's another link. Check out the MGD type listed. Because there's 2 or 3 types of blepharitis and people run to their eye drs in the most severe cases, that's what symptoms are usually described on the webpages. I have mild ocular rosacea and the bleph bumps are commonly associated.
posted by ick at 8:57 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm voting for Millia too. I get them removed by the dermatologist.
posted by k8t at 9:02 AM on June 6, 2007

The person asking the question mentions suffering from this for years/decades, but does not mention ever having seen a doctor about this problem. that_girl, have you ever been to an ophthalmologist about this? Fingernail + eye is a bit dangerous as you already know, but it might be making the problem worse in the long run... or at least, perpetuating it.
posted by tomboko at 9:05 AM on June 6, 2007

Do you have high cholesterol or high blood triglycerides?
posted by ruwan at 9:10 AM on June 6, 2007

I'm voting for Millia too. I get them removed by the dermatologist.

But they so don't seem like something it's worth seeing a doctor for - it's literally one little flick and they're gone, no redness, irritation goes away instantly. I can't imagine leaving one alone for long enough to get in to see a doctor to have it removed - I can barely keep my eye open when I have one.

I guess it'd be nice to know why they happen, so as to try to prevent them from happening.
posted by davey_darling at 9:10 AM on June 6, 2007

They are styes. Nothing to worry about, most likely you get them when working in a dusty environment.
I have these every now and then and do the same thing.
The fingernail is not recommended but it sure works!
posted by jammnrose at 9:14 AM on June 6, 2007

Scraper here (fingernail). I just figured it was a pearl like phenomenon overnight, when a bit of grit or dust or whatever got on the surface of your eye.
posted by cashman at 9:50 AM on June 6, 2007

Clavicle-- I don't know, the arm bumps and eye bumps could easily be different things. I always associated my arm bumps with allergies because they appear only when I've been outside hiking or doing yardwork during my allergy seasons. It could be sun exposure, too, I guess... I don't get the eye bumps often enough to notice a correlation with anything.
posted by doubtful_guest at 10:11 AM on June 6, 2007

I've had an episode where I got three of these in the space of a week, exactly as you described. I got mine a couple days after a few visit to a hot tub at a rental vacation house in Tahoe and I assumed that there might have been something bacterial in the water that caused the reaction (I know, eewwww). I didn't ever go to the eye doctor though since it hasn't happened again and I was able to scrape/pop all three of them. But they were totally irritating and annoying and when it first happened I also kept thinking I had an eyelash in my eye or some other type of foreign body. It wasn't until I lifted my eyelid up slightly to see under it that I saw the little suckers. Yuck, but once I scraped them off, it all felt totally better.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:07 AM on June 6, 2007

Do you wear eyeliner or other eye makeup? I used to get something like you describe and have found that they disappeared altogether when I 1) stopped using drugstore brand makeup and 2) used makeup remover daily.
posted by like_neon at 11:49 AM on June 6, 2007

Sounds like blepharitis to me. My optometrist recommended I wash my eyelashes with baby shampoo when I wash my face, and it went away. I don't use the baby shampoo anymore, but I always make a point to wash my eyelids/lashes with whatever mild facial cleanser I'm using at the time.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:37 PM on June 6, 2007

It's called a chalazion or meibomian cyst.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:41 PM on June 6, 2007

Chalazion's usually form further up a sweat gland, and underneath the eyelid. They are actually solidified and unpoppable from hardened oils. So I don't think that's what he's describing (I have a small chalazion at the moment actually, I just dread having it removed so have been using damp hot towel compresses to try and loosen it out).

From the description this sounds more like blepharitis to me as well as it is localized to the eyelid edges.
posted by samsara at 1:51 PM on June 6, 2007

Do you have high cholesterol or high blood triglycerides?
posted by ruwan at 12:10 PM on June 6

I'm not the OP but I get exactly what the OP describes (and remove them the same way - it's not painful at all and they come off easily, have a very small amount of clear, non-pus-like liquid inside and once they're gone you can't tell they were ever there). Mine are non-irritating, though - they do not feel like an eyelash in my eye - I am just sort of aware of them in an almost subliminal way that's annoying enough to want it to stop.

I do have high cholesterol. Now I'm curious how that's related?
posted by joannemerriam at 2:14 PM on June 6, 2007

I'm so excited that someone asked this because I get these too, and I have searched the internet high and low to find out what the heck they are. They aren't styes and they aren't chalazions; I don't think they could possibly qualify as "cysts" because they're almost insignificantly tiny, and they last less than a day. They're just irritating, like a little piece of sand. Sometimes I don't feel them, but other times I do and then I look in the mirror and it's there.

Seriously, guys, these things are tiny. Unlike the styes and chalazions and just about every other eyelid inflammation/growth, no one sees them unless they're right up against your eye and examining your eyelid closely. So it's not that they're aesthetically unpleasing, it's more an irritating/curiosity thing.

Also, I rarely wear eye makeup, so I don't think that's related. At least not in my case.
posted by wondermouse at 2:23 PM on June 6, 2007

I do not think they are millia or styes from the description. They sound like blepharitis, which is what I have, which is basically dandruff of the eyelashes that cause irritation and bumps on your eyelid and dry/irritated eyes.

My opthomologist said the best everyday treatment to prevent them is to wash your outer eyelids and eyelashes thoroughly by closing your eyes and scrubbing the outsides with baby shampoo (no tears). That should keep the oil & dandruff production down, and thus prevent the little cloggy blisters from forming. If it continues to bother you, your eye doctor can prescribe you some special drops, but mine said it's usually unnecessary if the baby shampoo is keeping it under control.
posted by tastybrains at 2:28 PM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

It seems we have reached the consensus of "Oh yeah, I get those, they don't seem like X" vs "Oh, I bet those are X."

I have never thought to see an eye doctor about them because they don't last long enough to get an eye doctor to look at them. They happen rarely enough that they aren't actually a significant bother (less than once a month--not often enough to keep track). It does not seem like something that I need to control, because it happens so rarely.

I don't use eye makeup, and they frequently appear right after a shower.
posted by that girl at 3:12 PM on June 6, 2007

I am not sure what they are called but I get them sometimes. I know someone who works for an eye doctor who told me that they really like to pop up if you put eye liner right on the inner edge of your eye lid. I notice that it happens when I use eye liner, and not nearly as much when I don't use it at all.
posted by slc228 at 3:48 PM on June 6, 2007

doubtful_guest as a note, your arm bumps sound like Sudamina or Miliaria Crystallina. You describe them as occuring in warm weather when you are outside, they are likely linked to sweat secretion.

As for the Eyes, I don't know. I do know that fingernails are not surgical instruments and should never be used to pick, pop or puncture any part of your body
posted by Megafly at 4:29 PM on June 6, 2007

Okay, I confess: I get these all the time, too. I saw a poster in the doc's office that had them, and it said they were the dreaded cysts. I guess I'm wrong. I shouldn't have fallen for all the hooplah.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:58 PM on June 6, 2007

Wouldn't you describe them more like micro-blisters than zits or cysts?

I get them, and my opthamologist and optomestrist weren't worried. I scratch them with a clean fingernail, and they're gone.

They *feel*, however, like an incredibly large object or scratch.
posted by Savannah at 9:48 PM on June 8, 2007

In the interest of Science! (and anyone who checks their recent activity and has posted to this ask)

Another one of these just popped up (so it looks like once every two months may be a poor preliminary estimate for the frequency). I tried a hot compress and it did nothing noticeable. Except keep me from opening my eye and blinking. I get the same type of "relief" from just . . . closing my eyes. Or not blinking.
posted by that girl at 5:58 PM on August 3, 2007

I use the warm towel to massage the goo out, gently. I rub, slowly, from the inner corner of eye lid to the outer corner. The warm massage helps loosen the plugged material. It takes about 10 minutes, I think. Some bumps are easier than others. If I don't have time or patience for it, I use my nail. There's good instructions at this previously mentioned link.

A couple weeks ago, I asked an ophthalmologist about it. He advised washing the eyelids with baby shampoo. I added that the bumps aren't on the outside edge and he responded that the cooties that cause it typically are. And, like tastybrains, he also said come see him again if it's really problematic because he can prescribe drops.
posted by ick at 7:21 AM on September 16, 2007

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