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White bump on eyelid: Potential causes and treatment

Experts share what might be the culprit for a white bump on your eyelid and what you can do about it.

Sonia Dulai headshot
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
featuring Sonia Dulai, MD
Updated on Mar 4, 2024 • 10 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
White Bumps on Eyelid
Sonia Dulai headshot
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
featuring Sonia Dulai, MD
Updated on Mar 4, 2024 • 10 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What are milia?
More

Noticing an unusual bump on your eyelid may be unpleasant, especially if it’s uncomfortable. These bumps may also make your face look different, which only worsens the experience and makes you want to get rid of them ASAP.

So, what exactly causes these bumps? White bumps on the eyelids are most often milia. However, there are other forms of eyelid bumps that can be caused by several other factors. Depending on the cause, these bumps may also appear in other colors like red or yellow.

We understand that noticing a bump on your eyelid can be concerning. So here, we’ll explore some of the potential causes of eyelid bumps, starting with the white bumps.

Here at Curology, we currently focus on the diagnosis and treatment of acne, rosacea, and anti-aging concerns. We don’t treat many of the conditions mentioned in this article. This article is for information purposes.

What are milia?

Milia, otherwise known as milk spots, are small, firm white bumps that can appear anywhere on the skin. However, they commonly appear on parts of the face such as the eyelids, nose, and cheeks.¹ These bumps may also appear on the scalp, trunk, extremities, and genital region.²

Milia bumps form because the skin protein, keratin, collects in pockets or cysts under the surface of the skin.³ They may arise from any skin structure including parts of the hair follicle, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands. Milia are especially common among newborn babies, but they can appear at any age.⁴

Types of milia

There are various types of milia with different causes. The types of milia are broadly classified as either primary or secondary milia.

Primary milia

Primary milia are a very common form of milia. The bumps grow spontaneously without a possible cause such as skin trauma or another skin condition.⁵ The bumps tend to grow around the cheeks, forehead, eyelids as well as other parts of the body in some cases.⁶

Primary milia is common among newborns with around 40% to 50% of newborn babies developing milia.⁷ While these bumps generally go away after a few weeks in most babies, they may sometimes spread to other parts of the body and last longer.⁸

Rare forms of primary milia

There are also other forms of primary milia which are rare, including:⁹

  • Milia en plaque, which appears as reddened plaques with many milis and is more commonly found in middle-aged women

  • Multiple eruptive milia, which involve a breakout of many milia occurring over weeks to months

  • Nodular grouped milia

  • Nevus depigmentosus with milia

  • Genodermatosis-associated milia

Secondary Milia

Unlike primary milia that develop spontaneously, secondary milia develop due to other processes.¹⁰ The cause of secondary milia could be a skin disease, trauma to the skin, or the use of a drug.¹¹

Disease-associated milia may occur with skin blistering conditions and some may have a hereditary component.¹² Milia from skin blistering diseases are believed to develop from the regrowth of damaged structures during the healing process.¹³ These structures include eccrine sweat ducts, sweat glands, or hair follicles.

Secondary milia could develop as the skin heals from an injury involving abrasions to the surface of the skin. This could be due to second-degree burns, use of chemical peels, or dermabrasion.¹⁴

Millia could also develop in some people as a side effect of long-term use of certain drugs such as topical steroids, benoxaprofen, 5-fluorouracil, cyclosporine, and penicillamine.¹⁵

Other causes of eyelid bumps

Apart from milia, there are other causes of bumps that appear around the eyelid. They may appear in different colors or sizes depending on the cause.

Styes

A stye is known medically as a hordeolum. It’s a type of eyelid bump that appears inflamed and red and usually forms near the eyelashes.¹⁶ If caused by bacteria, a stye can develop quickly and be painful. This bump looks swollen and usually has a pus-filled center that may appear yellow. Usually, a stye would resolve on its own without the need for treatment.¹⁷

Chalazia

Unlike styes, chalazia usually don’t hurt.¹⁸ A chalazion will develop slowly and won’t produce pus. Chalazia occur when there’s a blockage of the oil glands near the eyelashes. These glands are known as Meibomian glands, so chalazia are also known as meibomian cysts. Blockage of these glands makes the area swell and become inflamed.¹⁹

Ocular rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that mostly affects the skin of the face.²⁰ Its symptoms include flushing, redness, skin bumps, acne-like lesions, and rashes that may come and go or be more persistent. Ocular rosacea is one of the subtypes of rosacea, which affects the eyes and surrounding structures. Notably, about 10% to 50% of people with rosacea have ocular rosacea, characterized by inflammation of the eye surface tissues and areas surrounding the eye.²¹

Ocular rosacea may lead to irritation, dryness, redness of the eye, as well as conjunctivitis.²² In severe cases, ocular rosacea may also affect the cornea without proper management.²³

Cholesterol deposits

Although uncommon, small collections of cholesterol can be deposited in soft yellow bumps on the eyelids.²⁴ This medical condition is known as xanthelasma palpebrarum. It typically occurs in people with lipid disorders. A lipid disorder could result from conditions such as hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, and hypothyroidism.²⁵

Eyelid lesions

There are many other growths or lesions that may appear on the eyelid or other parts of the face. One of the most common of these is seborrheic keratosis.²⁶ It’s a hereditary skin condition that affects sun-exposed areas of the skin and occurs more commonly among people over 50. It causes bumps that have a rough and greasy surface, and these bumps can appear on the eyelid or other parts of the skin.²⁷

A variant of seborrheic keratosis is Dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN).²⁸ It commonly affects people of Black and Asian descent and results in small skin-colored or dark bumps on the eyelids or other parts of the face like the cheeks, forehead, or temples. These bumps are usually painless but tend to grow darker and larger with time.²⁹

When to see your healthcare provider about eyelid bumps

Generally, it’s best to get any unusual bump, pimple, or growth checked out by your healthcare provider when you notice them. This is important, especially if the bump is painful, irritating, or doesn’t improve within a few days or is getting worse instead of better. Your healthcare provider can give you a proper diagnosis with prompt and adequate treatment.

Some forms of milia, whether primary or secondary, may require treatment to resolve.³⁰ So you might need to see your healthcare provider if you notice milia on your skin. Depending on the evaluation of your healthcare provider, treatment of milia could involve a minor surgical procedure to remove them or the application of topical treatments like retinoids.³¹

The key takeaways

  • In most cases, white bumps on the eyelids are associated with milia.

  • Milia are small white bumps that appear around the eyelids and other parts of the face.

  • They consist of a collection of keratin (a skin protein) under the skin.

  • Some forms of milia go away on their own but treatment may be necessary, especially for adults.

  • Bumps on the eyelid could also be caused by other conditions like styes and chalazia.

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FAQs

Should I be worried about a bump on my eyelid?

It’s best to see your dermatology provider if you notice a bump on your eyelid, especially if it doesn’t go away after a few days or is getting worse.

How do I know if my eyelid bumps are milia?

There are various forms of bumps that could appear on the eyelid.³² Milia are little, round, firm, whitish, or yellowish bumps. They could appear on the eyelid or other parts of the face or body.³³

Will milia go away?

Typically, congenital milia of newborns goes away on its own without any treatment.³⁴ However, other forms of milia need to be treated as they’re less likely to go away on their own.³⁵

Can you pop milia?

Unlike acne, pimples that may be filled with pus, millia are filled with the protein, keratin. So they can’t be popped like acne.³⁶ It's best to meet with your dermatology provider to find the best way to remove milia.

Are milia bumps harmful?

Milia are typically benign or harmless, non-contagious, and don’t usually cause other symptoms.³⁷ However, they may affect a person’s appearance and this could be concerning for some.³⁸

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. (2023, January 31).

  2. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  3. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  4. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  5. David R. Berk and Susan J. Bayliss. Milia: A review and classification. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2008, September 26).

  6. David R. Berk and Susan J. Bayliss. Milia: A review and classification. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ibid.

  7. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  8. Zekayi Kutlubay, et al. Newborn Skin: Common Skin Problems. Mædica. (January, 2017).

  9. David R. Berk and Susan J. Bayliss. Milia: A review and classification. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ibid.

  10. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  11. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  12. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  13. Aikaterini Patsatsi, et al. Multiple Milia Formation in Blistering Diseases. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology. (2020, April 1).

  14. David R. Berk and Susan J. Bayliss. Milia: A review and classification. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ibid.

  15. David R. Berk and Susan J. Bayliss. Milia: A review and classification. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ibid.

  16. InformedHealth.org. Styes and chalazia (inflammation of the eyelid): Overview. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). (2019, December 5).

  17. InformedHealth.org. Styes and chalazia (inflammation of the eyelid): Overview. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Ibid.

  18. InformedHealth.org. Styes and chalazia (inflammation of the eyelid): Overview. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Ibid.

  19. InformedHealth.org. Styes and chalazia (inflammation of the eyelid): Overview. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Ibid.

  20. Daniela Rodrigues-Braz, et al. Cutaneous and Ocular Rosacea: Common and Specific Physiopathogenic Mechanisms and Study Models. Molecular Vision Biology and Genetics in Vision Research. (2021, May 13).

  21. Daniela Rodrigues-Braz, et al. Cutaneous and Ocular Rosacea: Common and Specific Physiopathogenic Mechanisms and Study Models. Molecular Vision Biology and Genetics in Vision Research. Ibid.

  22. Daniela Rodrigues-Braz, et al. Cutaneous and Ocular Rosacea: Common and Specific Physiopathogenic Mechanisms and Study Models. Molecular Vision Biology and Genetics in Vision Research. Ibid.

  23. Daniela Rodrigues-Braz, et al. Cutaneous and Ocular Rosacea: Common and Specific Physiopathogenic Mechanisms and Study Models. Molecular Vision Biology and Genetics in Vision Research. Ibid.

  24. Ahmad M. Al Aboud, et al. Xanthelasma Palpebrarum. StatPearls. (2022, June 4).

  25. Ahmad M. Al Aboud, et al. Xanthelasma Palpebrarum. StatPearls. (2022, June 4).

  26. Thomas J. Stokkermans and Mark Prendes. Benign Eyelid Lesions. StatPearls. (2023, May 29).

  27. Thomas J. Stokkermans and Mark Prendes. Benign Eyelid Lesions. StatPearls. Ibid.

  28. Thomas J. Stokkermans and Mark Prendes. Benign Eyelid Lesions. StatPearls. Ibid.

  29. Thomas J. Stokkermans and Mark Prendes. Benign Eyelid Lesions. StatPearls. Ibid.

  30. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  31. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  32. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  33. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  34. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  35. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  36. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  37. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  38. Patricio P. Gallardo Avila, et al. Milia. StatPearls. Ibid.

Dr. Sonia Bajwa-Dulai is a board-certified internal medicine physician at Curology. She received her medical degree from Dayanand Medical College & Hospital in India and went on to complete her residency in the Primary Care Track at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH.

Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.

*Subject to consultation. Results may vary. Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
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Elise Griffin, Physician Assistant Curology

Elise Griffin, PA-C

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