What is a chalazion?
A chalazion is a blockage in a small duct in your eyelid that can result in a small bump and eyelid swelling. Each of your eyelids has small glands called meibomian glands located near the eyelashes, which produce one of the oils that lubricates your eye. When these glands cannot release their oil because their duct is blocked, the oil backs up and causes a bump.
A chalazion is not the result of an infection, although it can follow an infection of the eye. An infection of these same small ducts is called a stye, which may resemble a chalazion but is usually quite painful and tender, while a chalazion is less painful. A chalazion can grow to the size of a marble in extreme circumstances.
A chalazion is typically mild and requires no special treatment other than the application of a warm, damp compress several times a day to help loosen the oil blocking the duct. If a chalazion grows too large or cannot be resolved with a compress, it may be surgically removed.
Seek prompt medical care if a bump on the eyelid remains for more than a month, if your vision is affected by the bump, or if the bump continues to grow despite treatment.
What are the symptoms of a chalazion?
Symptoms of a chalazion include the formation of a small bump near the eyelashes on the eyelid. The bump may increase in size, and the entire eyelid may become tender. Swelling of the eyelid surrounding the chalazion is also common. Less commonly, a chalazion may get very large and require surgical removal.
Common symptoms of a chalazion
A chalazion can form very quickly or develop slowly over time. You may experience symptoms all the time or just once in a while. Symptoms on or near the eyelids include:
- Increased tear production if the chalazion is irritating your eye
- Soft rubbery bump below the eyelid margin
Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition
In some cases, a chalazion can be a serious condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms including:
- Blurred vision
- Eyelid bump that does not clear up within a few months or less
- Loss of eyelashes around the chalazion
What causes a chalazion?
When oil from the meibomian glands, which are located in the eyelids near the eyelashes, clogs the duct from which it is usually released, you develop a chalazion. The meibomian glands produce one of the oils that lubricates your eye. If the gland is plugged, oil builds up in the gland and leads to the development of a bump on your eyelid. The cause of a chalazion is not infection, although it may sometimes follow an eye infection, and a chalazion is not contagious.
A number of factors increase the risk of developing a chalazion. Not all people with risk factors will get a chalazion. Risk factors for a chalazion include:
Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margin)
Poor eyelid hygiene leading to accumulation of lid debris (clogging gland openings)
Rosacea (inflammatory skin condition characterized by reddening of the skin of the nose and cheeks, sometimes accompanied by broken veins and pimples)
Seborrheic dermatitis (common inflammatory skin condition characterized by flaky white or yellow scales)
Tuberculosis (serious infection affecting the lungs and other organs)
Reducing your risk of a chalazion
If you have a history of chalazia (plural of chalazion) or many risk factors for the condition, it may be helpful to take steps to reduce your risk of chalazion.
You may be able to lower your risk of a chalazion by:
Cleaning your eyelid gently with warm water or very diluted baby shampoo
Washing your face regularly
How is a chalazion treated?
The mainstay of treatment for chalazion is the application of a warm, damp compress, typically a clean washcloth, for 10 to 15 minutes four to six times each day until the chalazion resolves. The warmth from the compress helps to loosen the oils that are clogging the duct. You can gently massage the area with the warm compress to assist in relieving the blockage. Because the eyelids are delicate, it is important to be gentle, and you should not try to force or drain the chalazion yourself. In rare cases, a chalazion that will not resolve on its own must be surgically removed. Surgical removal is usually performed from the inside of the eyelid to prevent a noticeable scar.
Common treatments for a chalazion
Treatment for a chalazion depends on the severity and persistence of the condition. Treatments include:
Application of a warm, damp compress for 10 to 15 minutes four to six times daily, with gentle massage of the chalazion
Cleaning of the eyelids regularly to reduce oil buildup
Surgical removal if a chalazion is large and does not resolve with home treatment
A chalazion is typically a mild condition that resolves on its own. In rare cases, a chalazion may lead to vision problems. For example, pressure from a large chalazion against the surface of the eye may cause astigmatism. Such visual problems should resolve with treatment of the chalazion. In rare cases, a cancer of the eyelid may masquerade as a chalazion, so you should seek medical care if an eyelid bump does not clear up on its own or with the application warm compresses.
You can help minimize your risk of serious complications like astigmatism by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you.