If you notice a small, slow-growing lump on your eyelid, it may be a chalazion. A chalazion is a painless bump that can cause excessive tearing and mild irritation.
In most cases, home treatment is enough to make a chalazion go away. Sometimes, a chalazion may require professional medical treatment, such as antibiotics or surgery.
This article explains how to treat a chalazion at home, when to see a doctor, and how to tell the difference between chalazia and styes.
What is a Chalazion?
A chalazion, or eyelid cyst, is a pea-like lump in 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.
It typically appears red and swollen. The swelling that chalazion causes may be painful during the first few days. But, it usually subsides with time and lasts only a few weeks.
A larger chalazion can put pressure on the eye and create discomfort. In more serious cases, a chalazion may cause blurry vision and lead to complete swelling of the eyelid.
Causes of Chalazia
When clogged oils become too thick to pass through the meibomian glands, it can lead to chalazia. People with certain conditions may also be at increased risk for chalazia.
- Blepharitis (eyelid inflammation)
- Skin conditions like rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis
- Viral conjunctivitis
- High cholesterol
- Have low levels of vitamin A in your body
- Regular smoking
- Gastrointestinal inflammation
- Stye infection
- Meibomian gland dysfunction
If you've had a chalazion before, you're also at risk of developing it again.
Symptoms of a Chalazion
Chalazia often develops after an internal hordeolum, a type of stye. The telltale sign of a chalazion is a painless lump on the upper (or sometimes the lower) eyelid.
They begin as tender red bumps that are warm and swollen. Symptoms of a chalazion include:
- Teary eyes
- Mild eye irritation or discomfort
- A firm lump
- Blurry vision
- Inflammation that makes the entire eyelid swell
Swelling usually disappears after a few weeks without treatment. However, they may reappear more frequently in adults (between 30 and 50 years) than young children.
What is the Difference Between Chalazia and Styes?
A stye, or hordeolum, is a red, painful bump that results from a bacterial infection. On the other hand, a chalazion may not be red, sore, or tender to the touch despite the swelling.
Other differences include:
- Chalazia grows slower than styes and develops over a few months
- Chalazia are firmer than a stye
- Styes are painful
- Styes can be internal or external depending on where the infection is
- Most styes are caused by a staphylococcus bacteria infection
- Styes can increase light sensitivity
Chalazia and styes aren't harmful or serious. However, both can be a nuisance, and knowing the difference can help you know which one you have. As well as how to get rid of it.
How Is a Chalazion Diagnosed?
The most accurate way to determine whether you have a stye or a chalazion is to see a healthcare professional for a diagnosis. They do this with a medical history review and an eyelid exam.
Reviewing your health history can help them identify any underlying conditions related to the chalazion. They might use a bright light to determine if it's a stye, chalazion, or something else. If your doctor suspects the growth may be cancerous, they'll order a biopsy.
How to Prevent a Chalazion
You can prevent developing a stye or chalazion with a few simple actions. These include:
- Practice good hygiene: Clean your hands before touching your eyes or wearing contact lenses and remove eye makeup before bed
- Proper contact lens care: Cleaning contact lenses with a disinfectant and lens-cleaning solution
- Keep your eyelids clean: Clean your face and eyes before bed with an eyelid cleanser or baby shampoo, especially if you have chronic blepharitis
- Proper makeup handling: Removal of makeup and/or dirt on the face before going to bed; don't share eye cosmetics
- Clean your makeup brushes regularly: This removes dirt buildup that may transfer onto your eyelid
- Throw out old eye makeup: Replace mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow every 3 months
- Protect your eyes: Wear sunglasses or protective eye shields to protect against environmental irritants
- Avoid touching your eyes: Resist the urge to touch your eyes to avoid transferring germs
Treatment Options for Chalazion
Most styes and chalazia clear up on their own with home remedies. However, if the swelling persists, your doctor may recommend professional treatment.
If you notice a lump on your eyelid, never squeeze or pop it, as it may cause additional problems. Instead, you can treat a chalazion from home with the following remedies:
Hold a warm, clean washcloth to your eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this action 3 to 5 times per day.
Wash away any eye drainage with eye wipes, water, or mild soap. You can also massage around the region with a clean finger.
A gentle eyelid massage can unblock the clogged oil glands. Gently massage your eyelid a few times a day to promote drainage.
Professional Medical Treatment
Treatments for chalazia and styes are similar, but not every method works for both.
Oral Antibiotics, Ointment, or Eye Drops
For the most part, antibiotics aren't necessary for chalazia. However, If it's actively draining or associated with blepharoconjunctivitis, an antibiotic ointment may be used for 1-2 weeks. Antibiotics can also treat an infected stye by reducing irritation and preventing infections.
Depending on the severity of the swelling, your eye doctor may administer a steroid shot (cortisone). This can help reduce inflammation and swelling around the eye.
Your doctor may recommend surgical drainage if the lump impacts your vision or doesn't disappear. If the lump keeps recurring, your doctor may take tissue samples from the affected area for a biopsy.
This process checks for life-threatening conditions such as cancer. However, the chances of eyelid cancer are low.
When to See a Doctor
If the eyelid inflammation doesn’t decrease after trying home remedies, consult your doctor as soon as possible. They will examine your eyelid to determine the cause of the lump.
Also, visit an eye specialist if:
- You have recurring chalazia
- The chalazion interferes with your vision
- You have a large or persistent chalazion
Generally, chalazia disappear within a month 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.
A bump on your eyelid may be a chalazion or a stye. Though they can look similar, chalazia and styes have different causes, symptoms, and treatments.
The most obvious difference is that a stye is usually painful and a chalazion isn't. Because a stye is a bacterial infection, it develops quickly and may be treated with antibiotics.
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.
In this article