What is a Chalazion?
A chalazion is a small bump that appears on your eyelid because of a blocked oil gland. It can develop on the lower or upper eyelid, and it often disappears without treatment in about one month.
However, you should see a doctor if you think you might have a chalazion, especially if it is large enough to block your vision. In rare cases, chalazia are caused by skin cancer.
A chalazion is similar to a stye (an enflamed oil gland on the eyelid), but is usually smaller and less painful.
Causes and Risk Factors
The bump that characterizes a chalazion is caused by a blockage in the Meibomian gland on the eyelid. Meibomian glands produce oil in both the upper and lower eyelids.
Certain people are more likely than others to get a chalazion. Common risk factors include:
A History of Chalazia
If you have had a chalazion in the past, you are at a slightly higher risk of getting another one.
If you often touch your eyelids with unclean hands, you may increase your risk of getting a chalazion because dirt can block your oil glands.
Symptoms of a Chalazion
The most common symptoms of a chalazion are:
- a tender spot on your eyelid
- a hard lump on your eyelid that you have never seen before
- increased tearing of the eyes
- blurred or blocked vision
- sensitivity to light
Chalazia vs. Styes
Chalazia are sometimes confused with styes. You can tell the two types of eyelid lumps apart because chalazia do not usually hurt, while styes often do. In addition, chalazia are usually found away from the edge of the eyelid, while styes are most often found right on the eyelid edge. Even if you believe you have a chalazion, you should still see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Diagnosing a Chalazion
In most cases, a doctor can diagnose this condition by taking a close look at the lump on your eyelid. Your doctor will also ask about your symptoms to determine if the lump is a chalazion, a stye, or something else entirely.
Treating a Chalazion
The treatment for chalazia varies among patients.
Your doctor may give you either steroid eye drops or antibiotics to treat the chalazion. However, in many cases, it will go away on its own.
You should apply a warm compress to your eyelid several times a day for about 10 minutes at a time. This can reduce the swelling by softening the oils in the blocked gland, which should help the lump to drain on its own.
You may also be told to massage the lump gently a few times per day to try to drain it. Before you do this, make sure your hands and any compresses you use are clean.
If the chalazion does not go away within about one month, you should return to your doctor to discuss your options. When a chalazion does not heal after treatment, it may need to be surgically removed. This is especially true if it keeps growing, blocks your vision, or leads to an astigmatism (an abnormal curving of the cornea). Surgery is usually a last resort and it is rarely required because most chalazia clear up with a combination of medication and home remedies.
Most chalazia heal by themselves, either with no treatment or simple home care. In very rare cases, the suspected chalazion is caused by skin cancer, so your doctor may take a biopsy if the lump continues to grow or does not go away with treatment. This is why you should see a doctor to be diagnosed before assuming the lump is a chalazion.
Preventing a Chalazion
It is not always possible to avoid getting a chalazion, especially if you are prone to this type of eye problem. However, you can reduce your chances of getting one by keeping dirt off your eyelids, which means keeping your face and hands clean. If you get chalazia often, you can use baby shampoo on your eyelids to keep the area clean without irritating your eyes.
You can also put a warm compress on your eyelids for a few minutes each night before bed. This makes your oil glands less likely to become blocked, which may reduce your chances of getting a chalazion.