What is a chalazion? Is it serious?

A chalazion is similar to a stye.  It is a bump the can be present on either eyelid.  Its size ranges from small to very large.  The glands that are present in the eyelids, called Meibomian glands, normally secrete oil that prevents the evaporation of tears from our tear film.  When these glands become clogged, a bump can form.  The surrounding oil can irritate the surrounding skin, causing inflammation.

Chalazions can last for days, months, even years.  Patients with blepharitis, a skin condition that causes inflammation in the lids, are predisposed to chalazia.  People with poor hygiene, who rub their eyes, are also more predisposed to styes and chalazia.  Although they are not dangerous, children can pick at them as well, causing a concurrent cellulitis.  Cellulitis can be dangerous if untreated with oral antibiotics.  Some people even need IV antibiotics to treat this condition.

There is a difference between a stye and a chalazion.  Most styes are caused by a bacterial infection and are acutely painful.  Chalazia are not typically infectious and are more chronic.

Warm compresses are frequently prescribed to open the pores of the Meibomian gland and promote drainage of the oil.  Lid scrubs are frequently used to decrease the amount of oil and prevent further formation of chalazia.  Combination steroid/antibiotic ointments are frequently prescribed to decrease the amount of inflammation on the eyelid.  If a chalazion is very large or persistent, surgery can be performed to drain the chalazion.  This procedure can be done under local anesthesia.  In children, it is often done under general anesthesia.  Surgery does not prevent chalazia from returning.  If a patient is predisposed to chalazia, it is important to prophylactically use warm compresses and lids scrubs to prevent recurrence.

If you are concerned you may have a stye or chalazion, please visit us at Sight MD.

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