The term Chalazion comes from a Greek word meaning a small lump. It refers to a swelling in the eyelid caused by 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 infection of a lash follicle that forms a red, sore lump near the edge of the eyelid. A chalazion is an inflammatory reaction to trapped oil secretions. It is not caused by bacteria, although the site can become infected by bacteria.
Chalazia tend to occur farther from the edge of the eyelid than styes and tend to "point" toward the inside of the eyelid. Sometimes a chalazion can cause the entire eyelid to swell suddenly, but usually there is a definite tender point. When a chalazion is small and without symptoms, it may disappear on its own. If the chalazion is large, it may cause blurred vision.
Chalazia are treated with any or a combination of the following methods:
1. Warm Compresses and Massage. Warm compresses can be applied in a variety of ways. The simplest way is to hold a clean washcloth, soaked in hot water, against the closed lid. Do this for five to ten minutes, three or four times a day. Repeatedly soak the washcloth in hot water to maintain adequate heat. The majority of chalazia will disappear within a few weeks. An alternative to a moist washcloth, which can get cold too rapidly, is to place a moist paper towel in a zip lock bag, or heat a baked potato, bag of rice, or bag of beans in the microwave oven to heat it, and then wrap a washcloth around the heated object. This is then placed over the affected eyelid after which the chalazion is to be massaged in the direction of the eyelashes.
2. Steroid Injections can be useful after soaks have been tried and a small lump remains.
3. Surgical Incision or Excision of large chalazia, which do not respond to other treatments, can be surgically opened after the early inflammation is reduced.
Chalazia usually respond well to treatment, although some people are prone to recurrences. If a chalazion recurs in the same place, your ophthalmologist may suggest a biopsy to rule out more serious problems.
Thank you to Dr. Chris Thiagarajah, Cosmetic Eye Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon at The Eye Care & Surgery Center, for sharing his insights and knowledge with us.