A chalazion, also called a meibomian cyst, is a firm lump on the eyelids.
A chalazion is a cyst caused by the blockage and inflammation of the oil glands, beginning as a small red bump and sometimes slowly growing into the size of a small pea within several days. A chalazion usually forms on the inside edge of the eyelid, rather than on the eyelid margin near the eyelashes. It is different from a stye (hordeolum, an infection of the oil glands at the base of the eyelashes). If infected, a chalazion can become swollen, red, and painful.
Chalazions are more common in those that have inflammation of the eyelids known as blepharitis that can arise due to seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, or atopic dermatitis (eczema).
The meibomian oil gland on inside of the eyelid naturally secretes oil and can become blocked. The cause for the blockage is not always clear but can develop more easily in those that have pre-existing inflammation, such as in patients with blepharitis. The blockage of the meibomian gland leads to the formation of the chalazion.
A chalazion will typically clear up without medical treatment within a few weeks to a month. Warm compresses should be tried and gentle massage of the outer eyelid are typically the first set of treatments that are used for this condition. Topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed by a health care professional if there is an infection present.
There are a few things that can be done to improve a chalazion:
- Warm compresses to the eyelids for 10 minutes, performed several times a day
- Gently massage the outside of the eyelids for several minutes each day to increase the draining of the oil glands. Avoid squeezing or popping the chalazion, as it may make the problem worse
- Regular and gentle cleaning of the eye can remove build-up of debris that could have been leading to the blockage of the meibomian gland
A chalazion that does not clear up on its own or respond to the above treatments may need to be treated surgically