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Chalazion: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments & More

If you have ever thought you had a stye on your eyelid, but weren’t quite sure, it might be because you had an unwanted relative of that annoying little bump called a chalazion. A chalazion occurs when something blocks one of the glands in the eyelids responsible for secreting the oily substance that the body uses to keep the eyes moist. 

chalazion

Most of the people who get a chalazion are adults between ages 30-50. And 31 percent of those who get one are in their 30s.

What Is a Chalazion?

A chalazion is a tiny, typically painless, red-colored swelling or lump that appears on the eyelid. A blocked oil gland, also known as a Meibomian grand, is the most likely cause. It is why the medical community commonly refers to this condition as a Meibomian cyst or an eyelid cyst. 

During the initial stages, you might feel a bit of pain. However, after some time, it usually does not hurt at all. Most form on the upper eyelid, but you can sometimes find them on the lower eyelid. 

Chalazion vs. Stye 

Sometimes people confuse chalazia with a stye because of how similar they look. Even though many people use these two terms interchangeably, they’re not the same thing. 

A chalazion occurs when something blocks the oil gland. A stye is a sign of a hair follicle or oil gland infection.

A chalazion occurs when something blocks the oil gland. A stye is a sign of a hair follicle or oil gland infection. 

A stye can occur in two ways:

  • An external tender red bump (hordeolum) develops at the bottom edge of the eyelid
  • An internal hordeolum occurs deeper in the eyelash

Both happen when something blocks the oil glands, and they get infected. If the internal hordeolum doesn’t heal, it can become a chalazion.

What differentiates a stye and a chalazion is that chalazia are usually painless. A stye often hurts and can cause your eyes to feel scratchy and sore. Other stye symptoms include:

  • A painful lump that causes the eyelid to swell
  • Eye-watering
  • Sensitivity to light
  • A tiny spot of pus at the center
  • Crustiness along the eyelid’s edges

Causes and Risk Factors

A chalazion occurs when something blocks the tiny oil glands in your eyelids. These glands are what your body uses to keep your eyes moist. Blocked glands start to retain oil and then swell. 

Eventually, a hard lump may grow on the eyelid because of fluid drainage. Some additional factors that can cause a chalazion to develop include:

  • Rosacea (a skin complication that causes acne and redness)
  • Chronic blepharitis
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Viral infections

That said, it is unusual for a chalazion to develop because of tuberculosis or viral conjunctivitis. However, if you’ve ever had a stye before, it increases your risk of contracting another. 

Symptoms

Chalazia appear as tiny, inflamed swellings on the eyelid in their initial stages. This inflammation can turn into a slow-growing, painless lump within a couple days. 

Chalazia can appear on either the lower or upper eyelid. However, you’ll mostly find them on the upper one. Even though chalazion is generally painless, it can still cause your eyes to become mildly irritable and watery. 

Particularly large chalazia can even press on your eyeball and occasionally cause blurry vision. But, they don’t cause the entire eyelid to swell, and they’re not painful. 

Diagnosis

It is advisable to consult an eye doctor whenever you get a chalazion. These healthcare professionals can make a diagnosis and provide you with treatment options.

What you can expect when seeking the advice of an eye specialist includes:

  • A health history.Provide the specialist with your health history. This data will help them find the underlying issues causing the formation of your chalazion.
  • An external eye exam.Your specialist will examine your skin texture, eyelid, eyelashes, and the eye itself.
  • A thorough eyelid exam.The eye doctor will use magnification and bright lights to examine the bottom of your eyelids. They also look at where the oil glands open. 

Treatment

Sometimes a chalazion can disappear all on its own without treatment. However, if your specialist recommends treatment, the options available may include medical or home care treatment

Medical Treatment

When a chalazion doesn’t disappear on its own, your eye doctor may recommend surgery or a corticosteroius injection.

When a chalazion doesn’t disappear of its own volition, your eye doctor might recommend surgery to remove it.

Alternatively, they might recommend a corticosteroid injection. Both surgery and injection are incredibly effective.

Determining which treatment to use depends on many different factors, like whether you might be allergic to anesthesia. The specialist should explain to you the risks and benefits of each. 

Home Care Treatment

If you prefer to treat yourself, don’t give in to the urge to squeeze the chalazion. If anything, avoid touching it altogether. Some of the best home treatments include:

  • Good hygiene.Avoid wearing makeup when you have this condition. Keep that area as clean as possible and avoid touching the eye. 
  • Let it open on its own.Don’t press on it and let it naturally drain the fluid.
  • Warm compression.Use warm water to wet a clean washcloth. Hold the warm washcloth on the affected eye for about 15 minutes. Repeat this thrice daily to open the blocked oil glands.
  • Ointment or eye drops. Only use over-the-counter medication as recommended by the pharmacist, and for as long as instructed, even when you start feeling better.
  • Massage. Gently massage the swollen eyelid a couple of times every day. Do this using medium to light pressure for just a few minutes.

Prevention

Following good hygiene protocols can help you avoid going through such eye conditions. Some good hygiene practices include:

  • Face-washing. Make sure you wash your face every day to remove makeup and dirt before going to sleep. If you are prone to blepharitis, you might want to consider using a special scrub to clean your eyelids as prescribed by your doctor. 
  • Contact lens care. Avoid removing your contacts before you wash your hands. Use disinfectant and lens solution to clean your contact lenses.
  • Hand-washing. Wash your hands first before touching your eyes.

FAQ

How do you get rid of a chalazion?

You can quickly get rid of chalazia by applying heat to the affected part to unblock the gland opening. The heat will also help soften the trapped components in the blocked glands, making them easier to massage.

What happens if it is left untreated? 

Most chalazia will heal and disappear on their own when left untreated. However, this might take several months to occur and could end up causing infection and discomfort during this time. 

What causes a chalazion to flare up?

When something blocks the glands in your eyelids or when the oil in the glands gets too thick, a chalazion could flare up. However, infections rarely cause flare-ups of a chalazion. 

Can you pop a chalazion?

You can pop a chalazion, but it would be best if you did not squeeze or pop it because doing so might end up causing more damage. If it doesn’t go away after some time, it might need medical treatment. 

References

  1. Chalazion. (August 2021). National Center for Biotechnology Information.

  2. Chalazion and Stye Causes. (2021). Stanford Health Care.

  3. Chalazion. (February 2021). Cleveland Clinic.

  4. Chalazion. (2021). American Optometric Association.

Last Updated February 26, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.