Tiny glands under the inner surface of the eyelid, which make an oily fluid to help lubricate the eye, can get blocked. If this happens, the fluid is unable to escape and swells into a cyst. A chalazion is not normally infected but over time, inflammation causes a nodule (or granuloma) to form, which is a firm lump that remains for a long time. This lump is the chalazion. Chalazion are more likely to occur in people who have blepharitis, or skin conditions such as eczema.
Symptoms of a Chalazion
- A small lump on one or both eyelids.
- Mild pain or irritation can sometimes occur
- If infected, the eyelid will become more swollen and painful.
- Distorted vision may occur but only if the cyst becomes to big that it presses on the eyeball.
- Watchful waiting – may be advised if the chalazion is not causing any problems, since 25-50% of people get better without any treatment. However the condition can take between 2 and 6 months or more to resolve.
- Hot compresses – can help to ease discomfort. Hold a clean flannel that has been in hot water gently but firmly against the closed eye. Do this for 5-10 minutes, 3-4 times a day. Sometimes this warmth and slight pressure is enough to soften the contents of the cyst, helping it drain more easily. The water should be hot, but comfortable and not scalding.
- Massage – after using a hot compress, gently massaging the cyst with a clean finger or cotton bud can encourage the cyst to drain.
- Cleaning the eyelid – doing this twice per day removes grease and grime that may contribute to cysts forming. A weak solution of baby shampoo in warm water works well.
- Chalazion Surgery – if the cyst does not go, or if it is causing troublesome symptoms, an operation can be done under local anaesthetic. The eyelid is numbed and a small cut is made on the inside of the eyelid to release the contents of the cyst.
Antibiotic ointments, drops and medicines will not make any difference since the contents of the cyst are sterile and infection-free.
Most cysts do not cause any major problems but rarely a cyst can become infected. This can spread to involve the whole eyelid and the tissues surrounding the eye.
The eyelid may be very swollen and red, difficult to open and there may be a lot of pain and fever. Sometimes the eyeball is pushed forward so that the eye sticks out more.
If there is a suspected infection, it is vital to see a medical professional urgently.
For most people a chalazion occurs just once. However, some people are prone to developing them and it may recur. You may be able to prevent it from recurring by using a hot compress and massaging the eyelids each morning.
Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.
If you do not have a GP, then we have an in-house private GP practice that you can use. Alternatively we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstance.
If you have medical insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa PPP, Norwich Union), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation for any treatment and, in most cases, you will require a referral letter from your GP.