What exactly is a chalazion? Treatment and identification

A chalazion is a tiny lump or cyst that develops within the eyelid and grows slowly. They are usually not painful, and they only last a few weeks.

When a meibomian gland near the edge of an eyelid becomes clogged or irritated, a chalazion can form. These glands produce an oil that lubricates the eye’s surface.

The symptoms of a chalazion and the differences between a chalazion and a stye are discussed in this article. We also go through what causes it, how to manage it at home, when to see a doctor, surgery, and how to avoid it.

Symptoms

A chalazion shows up as a small, inflamed spot on the eyelid in its early stages. This inflammation can turn into a painless, slow-growing lump in a matter of days.

A chalazion can occur on either the upper or lower eyelid, but the upper lid is more prevalent. Although chalazia is usually painless, it might make the eye wet and irritate it slightly.

When a chalazion is extremely large, it can press against the eyeball, causing blurry vision. In most cases, this illness does not result in pain or swelling of the entire eyelid.

Pictures

  • Chalazion Image credit: Grook Da Oger, 2010.
  • Chalazion Image credit: Jordan M. Graff, MD, 2005.
  • Chalazion Image credit: JD, 2007.
  • Chalazion Image credit: Poupig, 2012.
  • Stye Image credit: Andre Riemann, 2006.
  • Stye Image credit: Palosirkka, 2013.

Stye vs. chalazion

Due to their resemblance in appearance, a chalazion and a stye are frequently confused. Although the two phrases are occasionally used interchangeably, they relate to different types of lesions that develop around the eyes.

A blocked oil gland causes a chalazion, but an infected oil gland or hair follicle causes a stye.

A stye might form in one of two ways. At the root of the eyelash, there is an external hordeolum. Deeper inside the eyelid, an internal hordeolum develops. Both of these conditions occur when oil glands get clogged and diseased. A chalazion can develop if an internal hordeolum does not heal.

The main distinction between a chalazion and a stye is that a chalazion is usually painless. A stye usually hurts and makes the eye feel itchy and irritated. Other signs and symptoms of a stye include:

  • a painful lump that may cause the whole eyelid to swell
  • a small spot of pussimilar to that of a pimple, at the center
  • crustiness along the edge of the eyelid
  • a sensation that something is in the eye
  • sensitivity to light
  • eye watering

Most external hordeola grow in size for 3 days before bursting and draining the pus. Not every stye, however, bursts throughout the healing process. They normally recover in about a week, which is quicker than some chalazia.

Risk factors and their causes

Chalazia is more common in persons who have underlying inflammatory eye or skin disorders, such as:

  • chronic blepharitis
  • acne rosacea
  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • meibomian gland dysfunction

Chalazia is more usually caused by viral conjunctivitis or TB. Sebaceous cell carcinoma can occasionally present as recurrent chalazia.

People who have had a stye or chalazion are more likely to have chalazia in the future.

Home treatment

A chalazion normally does not require medical attention and heals on its own within a few weeks. In the meanwhile, avoid squeezing or popping the chalazion because this increases the risk of an eye infection.

There are a number of safe methods for promoting drainage and hastening the healing process. These are some of them:

Warm compresses

Any hardened oil blocking the gland ducts can be softened by applying a warm compress to the affected eye. This allows the ducts to expand and drain more efficiently, reducing discomfort.

To create and use a warm compress, follow these steps:

  • Soak a soft, clean cloth or cotton pad in a bowl of warm water.
  • Wring out any excess liquid.
  • Apply the damp cloth or pad to the eyelid for 10–15 minutes.
  • Continue wetting the compress often to keep it warm.
  • Repeat this several times a day until the swelling goes down.

Each compress should be applied with a fresh cloth or cotton pad; do not reuse them.

Massage with care

Gently massaging the eyelids for several minutes each day may aid in the effective drainage of the oil ducts. Apply a warm compress according to the guidelines above before attempting this approach. Then, make sure your hands are clean by washing them completely. As a result, the risk of infection is reduced.

Massage the eyelid gently with your fingertips for several minutes each day until the chalazion drains. Keep the area clean and avoid touching it after it begins.

Treatments available over-the-counter

A chalazion or stye can be treated with a variety of over-the-counter medications. These may help to relieve inflammation and prevent infection as the wound heals. Ointments, solutions, and medicated eye pads are among the products available. A pharmacist can assist you.

Things to stay away from

It’s advised to avoid wearing eye makeup or contact lenses until the chalazion cures to avoid further discomfort or irritation. If at all possible, avoid touching the eye area with your hands unless absolutely necessary.

Surgery

A doctor may prescribe surgery to drain a chalazion if it is serious or persistent. This is usually done in a doctor’s office under local anaesthetic. They’ll lance the lump to drain the fluid and let the eyelid recover on its own. This is not something you should attempt at home.

Chalazia might recur on occasion. If this happens frequently, the lump may need to be biopsied by the doctor. A biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed and examined by a doctor for signs of a more serious ailment.

To treat chalazia, doctors might use corticosteroid injections, which reduce inflammation.

Infection

Bacteria can infect a chalazion if they get inside the oil gland. If this happens, the lump may become uncomfortable and more enlarged. If this happens, a doctor can prescribe antibiotic ointment, drops, or oral tablets.

This is an emergency if the infection spreads to the surrounding skin or the eye itself. If left untreated, eye infections can progress swiftly and cause vision loss.

When should you see a doctor?

If a chalazion does not drain and cure within one month, consult an eye doctor. The doctor will inquire about your symptoms and perform a physical examination to rule out any other diseases.

A doctor may administer a steroid injection to minimize swelling in some persons. This will be determined by the number, size, and location of the chalazia. Large chalazias may require lancing.

Speak with an eye doctor if you see signs of a bacterial infection, such as inflammation or soreness. They may prescribe an antibiotic ointment or an antibiotic course. If any of the following symptoms appear, get medical attention right away:

  • severe pain or swelling
  • swelling that is spreading rapidly
  • changes in eyesight
  • fever

Prevention

It is not always possible to prevent a chalazion from developing. To lower your odds, do the following:

  • not rub the eyes
  • wash the hands before touching the eyes, e.g., to insert contact lenses
  • protect the eyes from dust and air pollution by wearing sunglasses or safety goggles
  • keep the eyelids clean with special cleansers for the eyes, removing all eye makeup before sleep
  • replace eye makeup, such as mascara, every 3 months to prevent bacterial growth
  • avoid sharing items that touch the eyes, such as towels or washcloths, with others

If a person suffers from blepharitis and frequently gets chalazia, they should use specialized eyelid cleaners to gently cleanse the eye area on a daily basis. Pre-moistened washing wipes or special eyelid washes are additional options.

Conclusion

A chalazion is a non-painful bump that can form on the upper eyelid. Although chalazia can be irritating and uncomfortable, it is usually harmless and will go away on its own after a few weeks.

A chalazion might become infected on rare occasions. If the eye area becomes unusually swollen or painful, or if the chalazion does not respond to home treatment, see an eye doctor, optometrist, or ophthalmologist.

Sources

  • https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/chalazion
  • https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw167057
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324215
  • https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-are-chalazia-styes

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