What is a Chalazion?

by | May 31, 2024 | Eye Health


What is a chalazion?

A chalazion, otherwise known as a meibomian gland cyst, is a small, raised, red lump which appears on the eyelid. It is caused by a blocked or infected meibomian (oil-producing) gland.

A chalazion is not generally painful and it is frequently the cosmetic impact which makes patients seek help.

It can, however, become quite sore if there is infection or a lot of inflammation, and depending on the size and location, a chalazion can also affect your vision by pressing on the cornea.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on whether there is simply a cyst or if the cyst is infected.

Many chalazions will go away by themselves within a month or so without treatment. If they don’t, it’s important to seek specialist treatment as an untreated chalazion can make you more likely to develop cellulitis around the eye (preseptal cellulitis).

You can also obtain antibiotic ointment from your pharmacist.

Treatment options for cysts include a steroid (Kenalog) injection to the cyst. This usually settles the inflammation within a week or two, leaving only a small residual lump which will eventually disappear. If the chalazion has become infected, the infection will need to be treated first before it can be injected with steroid. A steroid injection can leave a slightly paler area of skin. If the cyst is of recent onset, IPL can be used to treat it.

If the steroid injection isn’t enough, or if the chalazion is particularly big or long-standing, incision and curettage surgery will be needed. Using a local anaesthetic to numb the eyelid, a small incision is made on the underside of the eyelid and the cyst and cavity are thoroughly drained. Depending on the size of the chalazion, the difference can be noticeable almost immediately or it can take a little while for the cyst to reduce. The incision will heal within a few weeks. Your eye may be covered with a patch for up to four hours and you will not be able to drive that day.

What causes a chalazion?

Chalazions are typically caused by underlying meibomian gland dysfunction/ blepharitis which is why people can get recurring chalazia.

Healthy meibomian glands secrete oil which forms part of the tear film. In some people, a process of inflammation affects the health of the glands and the quality of the oil they produce. These can combine to cause obstructions in the gland which stops the oil being secreted and a cyst develops. Cysts can be complicated when they leak oily substances into the surrounding tissue, mostly muscles and skin.

How can I prevent chalazions forming?

 Treating the underlying meibomian gland issues will help prevent blockages which develop infections.

Treatment might include home heat and massage on a regular basis and/or accessing clinical treatments such as meibomian gland probing, intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy and LipiFlow.

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