What is Chalazion?
A chalazion is a benign and painless nodule which can occur in the upper or lower eyelid. It is common and is sometimes called a meibomian cyst or a tarsal cyst. The term chalazion (pronounced kah-la'-ze-on) originates from the Greek word which means a small lump. These nodules which feel like cysts form usually around the oil glands on eyelids leading to swollen and red eyelids. They present a bacterial infection of the oil glands, sometimes even painful when they develop. A chalazion is sometimes confused with a stye. A stye is an acute inflammatory infection of an eyelash follicle which forms a sore red lump on the eyelid.
A chalazion is a nodule filled with a fatty secretion as well as pus due to an infection. If the eyelid is gently massaged and warm compresses are placed over the affected eye, the nodule can drain on its own without further treatment. However, in many cases, a chalazion continues to grow in size and can last for a couple of weeks.
A Larger chalazion can also cause blurred vision, astigmatism or even a temporal irregularity on the eye surface by compressing the cornea.
Certain people are more likely to have chalazion nodules on their eyelids than others. Risk factors include:
- Chalazion in the past
- Unclean hands
What Causes Chalazion?
Identifying the real cause of Chalazion is not always easy. A chalazion is more common in people with rosacea or blepharitis. Certain microorganisms normally found on everybody’s skin located near the eyes can cause an inflammation of the eyelash roots or the eyelid. A chalazion may form when the draining ducts of the meibomian glands are blocked causing localized swelling and inflammation in the eyelid. The meibomian glands are found within the eyelid and they produce an oily fluid that forms part of the tears.
Chalazion Signs and Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of chalazion include a hard nodule located usually in the center of the upper or lower eyelid, tenderness of the eyelid, blurred or even blocked vision in larger nodules, increased tearing of the eyes, sensitivity to light, etc. Chalazions, unlike styes, is usually not painful. It normally grows very slowly. Without treatment, chalazia go away on its own within a few months.
How is Chalazion Diagnosed?
Your eye doctor will diagnose a chalazion without a problem. A close look of the nodule located on your eyelid will help your doctor determine if it is a chalazion, styles or something else. If there is a hard lump inside the eyelid, the doctor will probably diagnose it as a chalazion.
A detailed anamnesis regarding the signs and symptoms that accompany the eyelid nodule is helpful.
How is Chalazion Treated?
As mentioned, sometimes chalazion does not require treatment as it can resolve on its own. Gentle massage of the affected eyelid, combined with warm compresses over the affected eye for an average of 10 to 15 minutes (some doctors recommend as long as 30 minutes) 2 to 4 times a day can promote drainage and unblock the clogged oil gland ducts. Eyelid massage is also recommended after the patient has taken a shower to facilitate the passage of the secretions.
Your doctor may recommend you to avoid eye make up and contact lenses until the chalazion has healed.
However, in many cases chalazion needs treatment. Treatment usually includes topical or oral antibiotics. However, antibiotics are often ineffective as chalazion is not an active infection of the eyelids. It is rather an accumulation of lipids due to a clogged oil gland duct.
In situations where the chalazion shows no signs of improvement or if pain and visual impairment are present already, more costly interventions may need to be performed. Sometimes even a small incision is required in order to clear the content of the nodule. Local anesthesia is used in this case. The incision is typically made underneath the eyelid, so you will not have a visible scar after the procedure.
Steroid injections are also recommended in order to allow a better drainage of the accumulated nodule content.
In many cases chalazion reoccurs. You can prevent this by using a hot compress on the eyelids and massaging the eyelids each morning. When the chalazion reoccurs in the same part of the eyelid or when it has a suspicious appearance, a biopsy can be made in order to rule out a tumorous growth in the eyelid.
Keep in mind that most chalazion nodules are harmless. They are just something unpleasant from the visual side. Chalazions usually respond well to treatment.
How to Prevent Chalazions
- Good hygiene prevents chalazions. Avoid touching eyes with dirty hands. Do not rub your eyes as this can not only irritate your eye but can also let bacteria in. If you need to touch your eyes, ensure that you wash your hands first. If you are in the habit of using eye makeup, ensure to remove them carefully with clean, sterile material before sleeping.
- Do not scrimp on the eye makeup! Ensure that you buy good quality eye makeup and even more importantly, make sure to replace them, especially mascara, at least every six months. This is because bacteria can grow in makeup, thus becoming a hazard.
- Whenever you step out into dusty and polluted areas ensure to protect your eyes. You can do this by wearing safety glasses when you do chores like dusting or mowing the lawn.
- If you get a chalazia, make sure to wash your eye regularly and follow the procedures mentioned above.
- Your eye is precious; if you notice any discomfort or anything different, it is always better to consult an ophthalmologist in order to avoid any problems.
- Chalazions are not contagious and it does not pose a health risk to others.
If you had chalazions in the past, then you must consult your doctor if you notice any new or worsening symptoms.