What is a Chalazion?
A chalazion is a small, inflamed oil gland that forms on the upper or lower eyelid. It occurs due to a blocked meibomian gland. These glands line the margin of the eyelids and secrete oil to keep the eyes moist.
The swelling that chalazion causes may be painful during the first few days. It usually subsides with time and lasts only a few weeks.
Chalazia (plural for chalazion), also known as meibomian cysts, are often confused with styes. Although both cause eyelid swelling, styes result from a bacterial infection instead of clogged glands.
You can treat a chalazion at home with a few remedies. However, consulting an eye specialist is the best solution for persistent and severe chalazia.
Symptoms of a Chalazion
Chalazia start as tiny red lumps that feel tender and painful to the touch. The lumps grow bigger and firmer, while the pain subsides within a few days. Chalazia commonly appear on the upper eyelids but can affect the lower eyelids too.
Swelling usually disappears after a few weeks without treatment. However, they may reappear more frequently in adults (between 30 and 50 years) than in young children.
The symptoms of a chalazion include:
- Painless lump
- Teary eyes
- Mild eye irritation
- A firm lump
- Blurred vision if the chalazion is large
What Causes Chalazia?
Meibomian glands are responsible for producing oil that mixes with tears to keep the eyes moist. The moisture protects the eyes from light sensitivity, irritation, redness, and general discomfort.
Sometimes, the oils become too thick to pass through these glands. As a result, the clogged glands accumulate a lot of oil, leading to chalazia.
Chalazia may also result from underlying inflammatory conditions affecting the skin or the eyes. These include:
- Acne rosacea (a skin condition causing acne and redness)
- Chronic blepharitis
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Stye infection
- Viral infections
- Meibomian gland dysfunction
You may also be at risk of having a chalazion if you:
- Have low levels of vitamin A in your body
- Are a regular smoker
- Have gastrointestinal inflammation
- Have had chalazion before
- Have demodicosis
What is the Difference Between Chalazia and Styes?
Styes and chalazia are different, although both conditions cause eyelid bumps.
Styes, also called hordeolum, are caused by infections at the root of an eyelash. They form a tender, red lump at the edge of the eyelid. Unlike chalazia, styes are painful. The infections can spread and inflame the entire eyelid.
Styes fill with pus and inflammatory cells. They last about a week before breaking open and draining the pus. These infections typically clear up on their own within a week, but sometimes prescription medications are necessary.
Causes of Styes
A stye is caused by skin-dwelling bacteria, usually staphylococci. Although harmless to the skin, this bacteria irritates the oil glands as it accumulates at the corner of the eyelid, along with dead skin and dirt.
Styes can also result from:
- Poor eye hygiene
- Bacteria transfer from the hands when removing contact lenses
- Bacteria on eye makeup tools or contact lenses
- Chronic blepharitis
Symptoms of Styes
A stye looks like a pimple on the inside or outside of the eyelid. It is associated with the following characteristics:
- Eye redness
- Tender lump
- Painful lump
- Crusty eyelid
- Teary eye
- Increased sensitivity to light
Home Remedies for Chalazia
If you notice a lump on your eyelid, never try to squeeze or pop it as it may cause additional problems. Instead, you can treat a chalazion from home with the following remedies:
Dip a clean washcloth in warm water. Then hold it on the affected eye for at least 15 minutes. Warm compresses loosen hardened oil stuck in the glands. Do this at least three times a day for quicker results.
Gentle Eyelid Massage
A gentle eyelid massage can unblock the clogged oil glands. Gently massage your eyelid a few times a day to promote drainage.
Maintain Good Eye Hygiene
Dip a clean washcloth or cotton ball in warm water. Gently wipe your eye from the inner to the outer corner. With each swipe, use a new cotton ball or a different part of the damp washcloth to avoid spreading dirt and bacteria on the eyelashes and eyelids.
Keep Your Hands off Your Eyes
Resist the urge to frequently touch your eyes to avoid transferring germs.
When to See a Doctor
Typically, a chalazion clears itself in a few weeks without medical treatment. However, if the eyelid inflammation doesn’t go down after trying home remedies, consult an eye specialist as soon as possible. They will examine your eyelid to determine the cause of the lump.
Also, visit an eye specialist if the chalazion is recurring or interferes with vision. They can recommend a better treatment option to help get rid of it.
Usually, an eye specialist diagnoses a chalazion by closely examining your eye, eyelids, eyelashes, and skin texture. They may use a bright light to focus on the eyelashes to see the opening of the oil duct.
Your eye doctor will also collect your health history to identify any underlying conditions that may be related to the chalazion.
Professional Chalazion Treatment
Besides at-home remedies for treating chalazion, an eye specialist may recommend:
- Oral antibiotics to reduce irritation and prevent infection
- Steroid injections to reduce swelling
- Eye surgery to drain the blocked oil gland
If the lump keeps recurring, your doctor may take tissue samples from the affected area for a biopsy. This process checks for serious problems such as cancer. However, the chances of eyelid cancer are low.
Generally, chalazia disappear within a week with well-managed home treatment. But they can last over 6 weeks if left untreated and poorly managed. The chalazion will most likely recur if you have poor eye hygiene.
If you undergo eye surgery to drain the chalazion, it may take 7 to 10 days to heal. During this time, avoid risky activities that can damage your eyes. Also, follow the doctor’s advice to speed up healing.
Here’s how to prevent a chalazion:
- Clean your hands before touching your eyes or wearing contact lenses
- Clean your face and eyes before bed to remove dirt
- Remove eye makeup before going to bed
- Clean your makeup brushes regularly to remove dirt buildup that may transfer onto your eyelid
- Replace eye makeup, such as mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow, every 3 months
- Protect your eyes from dust and air pollution while outdoors by wearing sunglasses or protective eye shields
- Use special eyelid cleansers to clean your eyes, especially if you have chronic blepharitis
A chalazion is a small, inflamed oil gland that forms on the upper or lower eyelid.
You can often treat a chalazion at home. In most cases, it will disappear in about a week. Some at-home remedies include warm compresses and eyelid massages.
Severe and recurrent chalazia require assessment and treatment by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Professional treatments include antibiotic therapy to prevent bacteria growth, steroid injections to decrease swelling, and eye surgery to drain a blocked gland.
Good eye hygiene also reduces the chance of oil gland blockage and, ultimately, a chalazion.
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