A chalazion is a red bump that forms on the eyelid. Some people refer to these growths as eyelid or meibomian cysts. Chalazia—the plural of chalazion—slowly form after a small oil gland just behind the base of the eyelashes becomes blocked.
These growths are not usually dangerous, but they can be irritating and affect day-to-day life. Chalazia have a range of causes and are manageable with a few simple techniques. However, in some cases, medical assistance may be necessary.
Anything that blocks a meibomian gland can lead to chalazia formation. These glands secrete an oily substance that helps keep the eyes moist. Blocked glands retain the oil and swell. Some of the common causes of chalazia are rosacea, tuberculosis, forms of dermatitis, and viral infections.
Many people confuse styes for chalazion and vice versa. Styes are painful, red bumps that form along the eyelid’s edge due to infection. Styes tend to have small pus spots in their middles and cause the entire eyelid to swell. Chalazia rarely cause the eyelid to swell and are not typically painful.
Additionally, chalazia tend to sit further back in the eyelid. Styes can contribute to and cause chalazia growth, but the two conditions are distinct.
Under most circumstances, a chalazion is painless. A person may even develop one and never experience any symptoms. Having a bump in the eyelid can lead to mild irritation, which causes the eyes to water. If the chalazion is particularly large, it may press on the eye and cause blurred vision.
Any person can have chalazia, but certain conditions and factors can increase the risk. Inflammation of the eyelids, called blepharitis, is a major risk factor for chalazia. Rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis are also potential triggers. People with a history of styes or chalazia are more likely to continue having them.
Additionally, studies indicate that diabetes and hypertension are common in people who tend to develop chalazia, so there could be a connection between these conditions.
Visiting an eye specialist like an optometrist or ophthalmologist is usually necessary to diagnose chalazia. The diagnostic procedure will involve a complete health history. Information from a patient’s medical history can help point to underlying issues that could have caused the growth.
An external eye exam and an eyelid exam are also necessary. In the eyelid exam, the doctor will shine a bright light and use magnification to look at the base of the eyelashes and check the gland openings.
Most people can manage a chalazion at home, and the growths will go away within a couple of months. Warm compresses help the clogged gland to open and drain. Use warm compresses for about 15 minutes, three to four times a day.
Additionally, practice good hygiene and avoid wearing eye makeup while the chalazion is present.
Under no circumstances should a person attempt to pop, rub, or squeeze a chalazion. Doing so could spread an infection to the eye itself, leading to serious complications. If bacteria are responsible for the chalazion, it could worsen the infection. Additionally, it could have permanent physical consequences, like scar tissue formation or pitting on the eyelid.
If chalazia pop or drain naturally, do not attempt to remove any remaining fluid. Visit an eye specialist for their professional opinion.
Most doctors will use conservative treatment options to manage chalazia, such as ointments to help relieve inflammation and drain the chalazion.
They may utilize steroid shots to reduce extreme swelling. In cases where the chalazion persists or resists other treatments, surgical intervention to drain the growth may be necessary.
Some evidence points to being able to prevent chalazia by practicing good eye hygiene. This includes avoiding rubbing the eyes as much as possible. Wash hands thoroughly and often. If wearing contact lenses, thoroughly clean the lenses with a cleaning solution. Always follow the contacts’ disposal schedule.
Throw away old and expired makeup and replace eye products every few months.
Complications of chalazia are rare, and most are the result of a chalazion over five millimeters in size. Large chalazia on the upper lid increase astigmatism and can cause corneal aberrations, leading to blurred vision, night blindness, and similar issues.
Without treatment, persistent chalazia can lead to lid disfigurement due to an infection and swelling around the eye.
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