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What is a Chalazion?

A chalazion is a small, usually painless, lump on the eyelid caused by a blocked oil gland. It can appear red and swollen, resembling a stye. While often harmless, it can cause discomfort and interfere with vision. Treatment options vary, from warm compresses to surgical removal. Curious about how to distinguish a chalazion from other eyelid issues? Keep reading to uncover the details.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A chalazion is an inflammation of the glands which surround the eye. Typically a chalazion takes the form of a small lump in the upper or lower eyelid, often near the edge. While the lump is not usually painful, it is unsightly, and when it bursts, it can lead to an infection in the eye. Therefore, it is important to get treatment for a chalazion when one appears. A chalazion may also be called a meibomian or tarsal cyst, a reference to the glands which are involved.

Normally, the glands around the eye produce small amounts of oil to lubricate the eye and the skin around it. The oil, also called sebum, prevents the fluid on the surface of the eye from evaporating, and also helps to seal the eyes when they are shut. Sometimes, the glands start producing oil which is too thick to flow out, and the oil blocks the gland. The gland keeps producing oil, causing an inflamed lump to appear.

Chalazia are often mistaken for eye infections such as pink eye.
Chalazia are often mistaken for eye infections such as pink eye.

Left alone, a chalazion will eventually drain itself out. However, use of warm compresses and gentle massage can help to accelerate the process. This is usually recommended by a doctor, who also prescribes antibiotics to prevent infection of the eye. In some instances, a doctor may drain or remove the chalazion, if this seems to be indicated. It is important to seek medical treatment for any eye condition, as an untreated eye condition could have lasting impact on your vision.

Using old, thick mascara may cause a blockage in eyelid glands and lead to inflammation.
Using old, thick mascara may cause a blockage in eyelid glands and lead to inflammation.

A chalazion is not a sty. A sty, sometimes spelled stye, is an infection of the glands around the eyelid, rather than an inflammation. Unlike a chalazion, which is caused by overproduction of sebum, a sty is caused by a bacterial agent, commonly Staphyloccocus. A sty is also characterized by more extreme pain. The treatment for a sty may be different, which is why it is important to be treated by a doctor for eye conditions, so that you can ensure that you get the appropriate care.

Chalazions appear red and swollen on the eyelid.
Chalazions appear red and swollen on the eyelid.

There are some steps which can be taken to prevent a chalazion. They often appear when people rub their eyes frequently. If you rub your eyes, you may want to visit a doctor to find out what the underlying cause of the pain or irritation which leads you to rub your eyes is. You should also wash your hands before putting them around your eyes or other mucus membranes, as these delicate tissues are more likely to become inflamed or infected than your skin.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon329725

Stop using cologne or perfume with a strong amount of alcohol, and use some visine.

anon163353

Me too. I get chalazions every two or three years and invariably, despite applying hot compresses and antibiotic ointments, they never go away of their own accord. They always have to be removed surgically (a painful and inconvenient procedure). I would love to know how to prevent them.

anon127623

This is helpful but does this really take care of the oil gland, or is this just a type of solution just a 'band aid' on the eye, so to speak. My husband has these continually and the eye doctor and regular doctor have never really addressed this except for a salve that doesn't really work!

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    • Chalazia are often mistaken for eye infections such as pink eye.
      By: arztsamui
      Chalazia are often mistaken for eye infections such as pink eye.
    • Using old, thick mascara may cause a blockage in eyelid glands and lead to inflammation.
      By: bedya
      Using old, thick mascara may cause a blockage in eyelid glands and lead to inflammation.
    • Chalazions appear red and swollen on the eyelid.
      By: Heiko Barth
      Chalazions appear red and swollen on the eyelid.
    • Treatment for a chalazion may include using warm compresses on the affected eye.
      By: happytotakephoto
      Treatment for a chalazion may include using warm compresses on the affected eye.
    • Rubbing one's eyes too frequently is a potential cause of a chalazion.
      By: Voyagerix
      Rubbing one's eyes too frequently is a potential cause of a chalazion.
    • Not washing hands thoroughly before touching the eye may lead to a chalazion.
      By: GVictoria
      Not washing hands thoroughly before touching the eye may lead to a chalazion.