Eye Health Central

What is a Chalazion?

What is a Chalazion?

A chalazion is a harmless, painless bump just inside the edge of either the upper or lower eyelid. According to the American Academy of Optometry  Chalazia (plural of chalazion) are the most common inflammatory lesion of the eyelid, accounting for 13.4% of all benign lid lesions.
Chalazion may be the result of styes that have mostly healed, and are no longer infected. A chalazion is nothing more than a benign cyst growing out of one of the meibomian glands in the eyelid, which are responsible for producing the oily substance that lubricates the eyes. 

The word comes from the Greek khalazion meaning "small hailstone".

Even though there is no real risk posed by a chalazion, it may cause the eyelid to appear red and swollen. The inside of the small nodule is filled with pus and oily secretions produced by the meibomian glands. When the opening of the gland becomes blocked, the fluids can back up, swell, and even become infected. This is called a stye. Once the infection is gone, but the build-up remains, it is then referred to as a chalazion.

what is a chalazion

How To Treat Chalazion

For most people, a chalazion with eventually drain and subside on its own so will need not treatment or intervention. Should a Chalazion persist, seeking treatment from a professional eye care practitioner is recommended.

To help the draining process along, apply a warm, damp cloth and massage the eyelid very gently. The goal isn't to pop the chalazion, but to loosen it enough so that it can drain slowly on its own.

Is a Chalazion It is possible for a chalazion to last for several weeks or more, and it may even continue to grow, giving the eyelid a red appearance, which many consider to be unattractive. If large enough, it may even put enough pressure on the surface of the eye to affect vision. By pushing on the cornea a chalazion can create similar effects to an astigmatism, a refractive issue that causes blurry vision.

Most chalazia either heal on their own or need only minor attention from an eye care professional. While the cyst is still infected, antibiotics can be prescribed in order to begin the healing process more quickly, hopefully limiting the size and duration of the mass. Antibiotics, however, will have no effect on the chalazion once the infection has healed and only the oily matter remains.

A chalazion is a small operation to remove the built-up pus, -although this is only used as a last resort - the excision process is rather simple and brief. A local anaesthetic is used to numb the area before a small incision is made on the underside of the eyelid. Then, the contents of the lesion are cleaned out. As the point of the incision is hidden under the eyelid, it should heal with no visible scarring. The Oxford University Hospital has a very helpful patient information guide explaining the treatment and operation to remove a chalazion.

Alternatively, the chalazion might be injected with a corticosteroid to allow better drainage. There is a possible side effect of lightening of the surrounding skin, which is more noticeable in dark-skinned people.

How to Prevent Chalazion

Chalazion is more common in adults than in children according to Stanford Children's Health particularly those between the ages of 20 and 50. As most people rarely experience a Chalazion there is not much need to prevent them, however if you experience frequent styes or chalazion then paying extra attention to your eyelid hygiene is recommended.

  • Wash and dry your hands before touching your eyes.
  • Clean your eyelids before going to bed.
  • Always remove eye makeup and replace every 2-3 months.
  • Wear contact lenses only as recommended - do not over-wear and always clean and soak in fresh solution.
  • Medicated eye drops and oral medications can address some of the parasites that live in and around the meibomian glands, which can cause the blockages that lead to styes and chalazion. 
  • Use an eyewash designed especially for eyes to reduce the build-up of oils and secretions around the eyes.

What Is The Difference Between A Stye And A Chalazion?

Differentiating between a Chalazion and a stye can be difficult as they can look very similar, but there are a few things that define them

Presenting Symptoms Chalazion   Stye
A Swelling of the eyelid ✔️   ✔️
On the edge of the eyelid   ✔️
In the middle of the eyelid ✔️   ❌
Painful   ✔️
A "head"/yellowish spot in the centre   ✔️
Alters vision ✔️   ❌

Any eye condition that affects your vision should be checked out by an eye care professional or your GP. 

Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 12 Sep 2016, Last modified: 20 May 2024