Eye Health Central

What is a Chalazion?

Whats is a Chalazion?

ChalazionMore people are likely to have a chalazion than know what they are called. Simply put, a chalazion is a harmless, painless bump just inside the edge of either the upper or lower eyelid. They are the end result of styes that have mostly healed, and are no longer infected. A chalazion is nothing more than a benign cysts growing out of one of the meibomian glands in the eye lid, which are responsible for producing the oily substance that lubricates the eyes.

Even though there is no real risk posed by a chalazion, they 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 remained, it is then referred to as a chalazion.

For most people, a chalazion with eventually drain and subside on its own, but in the even that it persists, seeking treatment from a professional eye care practitioner is recommended. To help the draining process along, apply a warm, damp cloth and massage the eye lid very gently. The goal isn't to pop the chalazion, but to loosen it enough so that it can drain on its own.

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 (the plural form of the word) either heal on their own, or need only minor attention from an eye care professional. However, for people that experience then repeatedly, there are steps that can be taken to help prevent them from occurring. Special eye washes can be used to reduce the build of oils and secretions around the eyes. 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 the lead to styes and chalazia. 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.

Should the chalazion require the attention of an eye care professional, the excision process is rather simple and brief. A local anesthetic is used to numb the area before a small incision is made on the under side of the eyelid. Then, the contents of the lesion are cleared out. As the point of incision is hidden under the eye lid, it should heal with no visible scarring.

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

Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 12 Sep 2016, Last modified: 11 Sep 2020