What is a Chalazion?

The term chalazion (pronounced kah-la’¬ze-on) comes from a Greek word meaning a small lump. It refers to a swelling in the eyelid caused by chronic inflammation of one of the small oil producing glands (meibomian glands) located in the upper and lower eyelids.

A chalazion is sometimes confused with a stye which also appears as a lump in the eyelid. A stye is an acute inflammatory infection of a lash follicle and forms a red, sore lump near the edge of the eyelid. A chalazion is usually a reaction to trapped oil secretions and not caused by bacteria, although the site can become secondarily infected by bacteria.

Chalazions tend to occur farther from the edge of the eyelid than styes (although a gradual swelling can be felt near the edge of the lid). Occasionally, a chalazion can cause the entire eyelid to swell suddenly.

How is a Chalazion Treated?

When a chalazion is small and without symptoms, it may disappear on its own. Usually, however, they don’t disappear without treatment. If the chalazion is large, it may cause blurred vision by distorting the shape of the eye.

Chalazions may be treated with anyone or a combination of the follow¬ing methods:

1) Antibiotic and/or steroid drops or injections;
2) Warm compresses: Warm compresses can be applied in a variety of ways. The simplest way is to hold a clean washcloth, soaked in warm water, against the closed lid for three to five minutes, two to three times a day. Repeatedly soak the washcloth in warm water to maintain adequate heat.
3) Massage or expression of the glandular secretions;
4) Surgical incision or excision.

Chalazions usually respond to medical treat¬ment, although some people are prone to recurrences and may require continuing medication. If a chalazion recurs in the same place, a biopsy may be necessary to rule out a more serious problem.