What is a chalazion?

A chalazion is a bump in the eyelid. This bump can vary in size and more than one can occur on an eyelid at the same time. Chalazia can occur on one or both eyes and on both the upper and lower eyelids.

What causes a chalazion?

Small (meibomian) glands lining the edge of the eyelids produce oil which helps lubricate the surface of the eye. When one of these glands becomes blocked, oil backs up inside the gland and forms a bump in the eyelid. If the gland ruptures, the oily materials can irritate the surrounding eyelid skin, causing it to become red, swollen, and painful.

Is a chalazion the same thing as a stye?

A chalazion is not exactly a stye, although the terms are often used interchangeably. A stye, medically referred to as a hordeolum, is a bump in the eyelid that occurs when an oil gland becomes infected. It is like a small abscess or boil on the edge of the eyelid. A chalazion is an accumulation of material in the eyelid as a result of a blocked oil gland.

Why do chalazia occur?

There is no typical cause for chalazia; however, chronic inflammation of the oil gland openings (blepharitis), can predispose the development of a chalazion. Persistent blepharitis may result in recurrent chalazia. Blepharitis may be aggravated by poor eyelid hygiene that includes eye rubbing in children.  Certain skin types may be more prone to chalazia and blepharitis.

What are the treatment options for chalazia?

Most chalazia resolve by themselves within several days to weeks, but sometimes can take months to completely disappear. Warm compresses over the affected area can promote drainage of the blocked gland. Anti-inflammatory eye drops, ointments, or an oral medication may be needed.

Oral antibiotics may be used if the chalazion is associated with bacterial infection of the surrounding eyelid tissues (cellulitis). A large, swollen, or persistent chalazion might require surgical drainage.  Although older children and adults can undergo the procedure in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia, general anesthesia is usually necessary to drain chalazia in young children.

How can chalazia be prevented?

A consistent, daily regimen of using eyelid scrubs, shampoo, or pre-moistened eyelid cleansing wipes can reduce the chances of developing new chalazia. This is especially useful when blepharitis is present. For those with a recurrent problem, regular use of topical or oral antibiotics is sometimes prescribed.

I had my chalazion surgically removed, but it came back again.

Once a chalazion is surgically removed it does not come back; however, this does not prevent other chalazion from reoccurring in nearly the same area. If you are developing multiple chalazion regularly, using warm compresses, lid scrubs, and sometimes medications may help prevent them occurring.