Saga Magazine's Dr Roche on treatment for calazions and earwax

Dr Roche advises on an eye problem and the safe way to remove ear wax

I got the first stye of my life five months ago, and my inner lower eyelid is still deep red. Is there anything I can do to get rid of it?

I suspect this is not a stye but a deeper infection called a chalazion. Styes are infections in the base of the eyelashes, typically a red lump with a yellow head, on the edge of the eyelid. A chalazion, however, is an infection or cyst in one of the oil glands in the eyelid.
Chalazions are situated more deeply on the inside of the eyelid and are often seen as a red lump, and are sometimes large enough to produce a visible distortion on the outside.
If the chalazion had developed recently, it would have been worth using some antibiotic ointment to eliminate infection. But as it has been present for some time, just be patient; they go down very slowly. Those that last more than six months can be removed surgically, but most have settled by then.

I have seen a battery-operated kit advertised that removes ear wax by gentle suction. Is it advisable and safe to use a gadget like this?
I would avoid these devices on several grounds. First of all, wax is meant to be in the ear canal. It performs several important roles; it lubricates and cleans the skin surface, protecting it from bacteria, fungi, water penetration and foreign bodies.
The only reason to remove the wax is if it is completely obstructing the eardrum and affecting your ability to hear. In this case, the wax needs to be softened with olive oil before anyone attempts to remove it.
Secondly, introducing devices into the ear always carries some risk. It is perfectly possible to push wax further in rather than removing it, as often happens with cotton buds. If you are over-enthusiastic you could damage the delicate eardrum.
The final point is that feedback on these devices on the internet is not complimentary – you may like to read some reviews before you purchase.
Your practice nurse can quickly check if you need to have ear wax removed, then arrange to soften it and syringe it out, confirming afterwards that the eardrum is clear. It’s a safer and more complete service altogether.
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