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Health Questions

Chalazion

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Meibomian gland lipogranuloma

Causes

A chalazion is caused by a blocked duct in one of the Meibomian glands. These glands are located in the eyelid directly behind the eyelashes and produce a thin, oily fluid that lubricates the eye.

Symptoms

A chalazion often develops after an internal hordeolum (another word for hordeolum is stye). The eyelid usually becomes tender, red, swollen and warm. Sometimes, the blocked gland causing the stye will not drain even though the redness and swelling goes away. The gland will form a firm, non-tender nodule in the eyelid which is called a chalazion.

Exams and Tests

An exam of the eyelid confirms the diagnosis.

Rarely, skin cancer of the eyelid may look like a chalazion. If this is suspected, you may need a biopsy.

Treatment

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

  • The first treatment is to place warm compresses over the eyelid for 10-15 minutes at least four times a day. Use water that is no hotter than you can leave your hand in comfortably. This may soften the hardened oils blocking the duct, and promote drainage and healing.
  • Do not push or squeeze the chalazion.

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

Steroid injection is another treatment option.

Outlook (Prognosis)

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

Possible Complications

Rarely, a chalazion will heal by itself but may leave a scar on the eyelid. This problem is more common after chalazion surgery, but is still rare. You may lose some eyelashes or you may have a small notch in the edge of the eyelid. The most common complication is a return of the problem.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

Prevention

To prevent chalazia or styes, it may help to gently scrub the edge of the lid at the eyelash line nightly. Use eye cleansing pads or diluted baby shampoo.

Apply antibiotic ointment prescribed by your health care provider after scrubbing the eyelids.

References

Jackson JL. Chalazion and Hordeolum. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC eds. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care, 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA:Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 65.

Marr BP, Shields CL, Shields JA. Tumors of the Eyelids. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds.Duane’s Ophthalmology. 2012 ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:vol 4; chap 3.

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.

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


Review Date: 11/20/2012
Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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