A chalazion is a common condition in which a small lump or cyst develops in your eyelid due to a blocked oil gland. The condition can occur due to inflammation around the opening of the oil glands just behind your eyelashes. This is called blepharitis.
When the openings of the small oil glands around your lashes become blocked by inflammation, a small tender swelling can occur in the lid. This is known as a chalazion or a meibomian cyst.
The chalazion will often vary in size over a few weeks and can discharge spontaneously or disappear after hot compresses and lid cleaning. A small proportion of the chalazia will remain for weeks or months in the lid, as a non tender lump. This can be safely left to get better by itself. If a large persistent lump is present, this can be incised and drained under local anaesthetic, but NHS England no longer routinely recommends this treatment unless there is a complication or a specific problem from the lid lump.
Sometimes the chalazion may cause a spreading infection along the surface of your lid, which might need a course of antibiotics by mouth, but this is rare.
How to prevent a chalazion
A moistened cotton bud or, in children, a warm moist flannel, should be used to clean the edge of your eyelids twice daily. This is known as "lid hygiene". In a small number of cases where there is a lot of blepharitis causing repeated chalazion, the cleaning can be combined with use of antibiotic ointment to rub into the base of your lashes once your lids are clean or low dose antibiotics by mouth.
If your eye becomes increasingly red or painful after treatment or your sight becomes more blurred, you should see an eye doctor again or contact the hospital. Our nurse-led helpline is open during office hours on weekdays. After hours and during weekends, please contact our accident and emergency department via the main switchboard on 020 7253 3411.