A chalazion is a small bump in the eyelid caused by a blockage of a tiny oil gland.
Meibomian gland lipogranuloma
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. They produce a thin, oily fluid that lubricates the eye.
A chalazion often develops following an internal hordeolum (also called a stye). The eyelid most often 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 nodule in the eyelid that is not tender. This 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.
A chalazion will often go away without treatment in a month or so.
- The first treatment is to place warm compresses over the eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes at least four times a day. Use lukewarm water (no hotter than you can leave your hand in comfortably). This may soften the hardened oils blocking the duct, and lead to 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.
Chalazia most often heal on their own. The outcome with treatment is excellent in most cases.
Rarely, a chalazion will heal by itself but may leave a scar on the eyelid. This problem is more common after surgery to remove the chalazion, 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.
It may help to gently scrub the edge of the lid at the eyelash line nightly to prevent chalazia or styes. Use eye cleansing pads or diluted baby shampoo.
Apply antibiotic ointment prescribed by your provider after scrubbing the eyelids.
Jackson JL. Chalazion and Hordeolum. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC eds. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 65.
Neff AG, Carter KD. Benign eyelid lesions In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 12.9.
Shields CL, Lally SE, Shields JA. Tumors of the Eyelids. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:vol 4; chap 3.