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Eye

Chalazion

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Definition

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A chalazion is a small bump in the eyelid caused by a blockage of a tiny oil gland.

Alternative Names

Meibomian gland lipogranuloma

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

A chalazion develops in the glands that produce the fluid that lubricates the eye. These are called Meibomian glands. The eyelid has approximately 100 of these glands, which are located near the eyelashes.

A chalazion is caused by a blockage of the duct that drains one of these glands.

Symptoms

  • Eyelid tenderness
  • Increased tearing
  • Painful swelling on the eyelid
  • Sensitivity to light

Signs and tests

An exam of the eyelid confirms the diagnosis.

Rarely, the Meibomian gland duct may be blocked by a skin cancer. If this is suspected, you may need a biopsy.

Treatment

A chalazion will often disappear without treatment in a month or so.

The primary treatment is to apply warm compresses for 10-15 minutes at least four times a day. This may soften the hardened oils blocking the duct, and promote drainage and healing.

If the chalazion continues to get bigger, it may need to be removed with surgery. This is usually done from underneath the eyelid to avoid a scar on the skin.

Antibiotic eye drops are usually used several days before and after the cyst is removed. However, they are not much use otherwise in treating a chalazion.

Steroid injection is another treatment option.

Expectations (prognosis)

Chalazia usually heal on their own. The outcome with treatment is usually excellent.

Complications

A large chalazion can cause astigmatism due to pressure on the cornea. This will get better when the chalazion is treated.

Calling your health care provider

Apply warm compresses and call your health care provider if the swelling gets worse or continues for longer than 1 month.

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if lumps on the eyelid continue to get bigger despite treatment, or you have an area of eyelash loss.

Prevention

Properly cleaning the eyelid may prevent the condition from returning in people who are prone to chalazia. Cleaning the eyelash area with baby shampoo will help reduce clogging of the ducts.

References

Papier A, Tuttle DJ, Mahar TJ. Differential diagnosis of the swollen red eyelid. Am Fam Physician. 2007;76:1815-1824.

Neff AG, Carter KD. Benign eyelid lesions. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO:Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 12.9.

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