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What Is an Eyelid Cyst?

By Jennifer Long
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

An eyelid cyst, also called a meibomian cyst or chalazion, is a type of growth on the eyelid. These growths can occur on the upper or lower eyelids. There are several causes for these growths, including an eyelid stye, keratosis, skin tags and blockages of glands.

Eyelid styes cause an eyelid cyst when oil glands in the lids become infected. The gland becomes swollen, red and sore. Unlike typical cysts, styes are temporary. They go away with treatment, generally in about 24-72 hours. If a suspected stye does not respond to treatment, it is not a stye.

Meibomian cysts are another type of cyst on the eyelid. These cysts occur when the eyelid is exposed to foreign substances that are left behind following an eye infection. The meibomian glands can become blocked and experience a backup of the fluid that lubricates the eye, called sebum. The gland swelling can be painful, but similar to a stye, these cysts generally can be managed with treatment.

Skin tags are often harmless skin growths. Sometimes, however, they can cause cysts at the point where the shaft and eyelid meet. In these cases, surgical removal of the skin tag and eyelid cyst is recommended. Although skin tags typically are not painful, the cyst might be quite painful.

Keratosis is often responsible for causing an eyelid cyst. Keratin and tissue form the cyst. Most of these cysts are benign, but they are often surgically removed anyway. They have the potential to be pre-malignant and develop into cancerous growths, such as squamous or basal cell carcinoma.

Although many forms of an eyelid cyst are not cancerous, doctors often prefer surgical removal. Even if the cysts are not painful, they might cause problems. Depending on their location, the cysts can cause irritation of the eye or prohibit proper protection. Surgical removal is often accompanied by a biopsy of the cyst to test for cancer cells, especially if the cyst resembles a cancerous growth.

For cysts that do not require surgical removal, there are other treatments that can help alleviate swelling and pain. Warm compresses are often suggested to help encourage blood circulation to the area, which in turn helps reduce swelling. Eye drops are prescribed to help in a couple of ways. Lubricating eye drops can be used to help keep the eye moisturized while blockages and other issues clear up, and antibiotic drops are used either to treat infections or to prevent them, depending on the situation.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By honeybees — On Sep 28, 2012

If you notice something strange like this, I would encourage you to get it checked out right away. I had a cyst on my eyelid that I also thought was no big deal.

It didn't cause me any pain, but it didn't go away either. When I started to notice some changes I figured I better get it checked out. My cyst did end up being squamous cell carcinoma.

Even though this is treatable, it is still scary knowing that you have a type of cancer. Now I am much more aware of changes in my body and more diligent about getting them checked out right away.

By golf07 — On Sep 28, 2012

I saw a strange red spot on my eye, and thought I was getting pink eye. This didn't clear up and it ended up being keratosis which turned out to be a cyst on my upper eye.

I didn't do anything about this for a few months, hoping it would just go away on its own. When I finally had my doctor look at it, he recommended I have surgery to remove it. Everything ended up being OK, but he said sometimes these can turn into cancer, and it wasn't worth taking any chances.

By julies — On Sep 27, 2012

@John57-- I am not a doctor or nurse, but I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some kind of connection. Stress can cause our bodies to do a lot of weird things.

I had a skin tag on my eye, and this had nothing to do with stress. I have these on other parts of my body, but they are usually covered up with clothing. It is hard to cover up a skin tag on your eye.

I had surgery to remove this skin tag, and just hope it doesn't come back again.

By John57 — On Sep 26, 2012

I have had more than one stye on my eye and this can really be annoying. It isn't all that painful, but I can feel it every time I blink. I have noticed I seem to get these when I am under more stress than normal.

Does anyone know if there is a connection between stress and cysts or styes on the eye?

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