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Chalazion: Causes & Treatment (Bump on Eyelid)

What is a chalazion?

A chalazion is a painless bump on your eyelid. It can affect both the upper or lower eyelid. It is often confused with an eye stye (or hordeolum), but a chalazion is different in that it is painless and not caused by a bacterial infection.

Chalazia (plural for chalazion) are the result of healed internal styes that are no longer infectious. These cyst-like eyelid bumps form around an oil gland within the lid and can cause red, swollen eyelids.

How to identify chalazia

The contents of a chalazion include pus and blocked fatty secretions (lipids) that normally help lubricate the eye but can no longer drain out.

Many chalazia eventually drain, resolving on their own. You can help this process along by applying warm compresses to your eyelid. Gently massaging the lid can help, too.

But some chalazia persist for several weeks or more and grow large enough to become cosmetically unappealing.

When these large, painless chalazia are left untreated, they may eventually begin to press on the cornea, temporarily causing astigmatism and blurry vision.

What causes a chalazion?

It's often impossible to know what causes a chalazion. Risk factors include blepharitis and rosacea.

People with rosacea — characterized by facial redness and swollen bumps under the skin — are prone to certain eye problems, such as blepharitis and chalazia.

Rosacea can affect eyelids, the eye's thin outer membrane (conjunctiva), the clear eye surface (cornea) and the white of the eye (sclera). In fact, rosacea that affects the eye and surrounding tissues is called ocular rosacea.

Causes of rosacea itself can be difficult to pinpoint, although environment and inherited tendencies are likely factors. Certain microorganisms living in or near eyelash roots may also exacerbate inflammation around the eye.

Chalazion Treatments

If you develop a chalazion, it’s best to see an eye doctor to determine the best way to get rid of this irritating bump on your eyelid before the condition leads to further eye complications.

Warm compress

Your eye doctor can provide you with instructions for how to apply warm compresses to your eyelid to help get rid of an eyelid bump. If you are prone to blepharitis, instructions for routine cleaning of your eyelids also may be given. 

Medication 

Your doctor may also prescribe a topical medication to treat your chalazia. In some cases, even oral medications may be recommended to reduce risk factors for getting chalazia.

The most commonly prescribed oral medicines for blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction are antibiotics such as doxycycline. Topical and oral antibiotics are usually ineffective as direct treatments for chalazia, which have no active infectious component that would require this kind of approach.

Surgical procedure

Small, inconspicuous eyelid bumps may require no treatment at all. However, some blockage-causing chalazia do not clear up on their own. These may cause the eyelid bumps to be persistent or even grow larger. In the case of a bothersome and persistent chalazion, your eye doctor may recommend a simple in-office surgery to excise it.

An eye surgeon will use local anesthesia to numb the area before making a small incision, typically from underneath the eyelid, to clear the contents of the eyelid bump without visible scarring.

An alternate procedure involves injecting the chalazion with a corticosteroid to get rid of the bump on your eyelid. A potential side effect of steroid injection is lightening of the surrounding skin, which can be more problematic for people with darker skin tones.

Can a chalazion be cancerous?

In cases in which a chalazion recurs in the same part of the eyelid or has a suspicious appearance, the removed tissue may be sent to a laboratory to rule out cancerous growth. Fortunately, most bumps on eyelids are benign and harmless.

Prevention

With just a few simple steps, you can help avoid a recurrence of chalazia. 

  • Always make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching surfaces that may be unclean or have been touched by many other people.

  • Try to avoid touching your face and eyes throughout the day unless absolutely necessary.

  • Always clean your hands thoroughly before putting in and removing your contact lenses.

  • Be sure to practice good eye hygiene before bed, including removing any eye makeup or other possible irritants.

  • Never share eye makeup or any cosmetic product used near the eyes.

  • Check the expiration dates on makeup products as well as eye creams, and toss out any that have expired.

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