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.

What is a chalazion?

A chalazion is a harmless cyst caused by a blocked meibomian gland in the eyelid. Meibomian glands in the eyelid produce an oil which helps keep the eye moist. If the gland becomes blocked, the oil builds up into a cyst which looks like a small lump in the eyelid. The lump can become irritated and red and, occasionally, infected.

A chalazion commonly occurs due to inflammation around the opening of the oil glands at the base of your eyelashes. This is called blepharitis.

Chalazions tend to only last a few weeks and are typically not painful.

Many chalazions can be treated effectively at home but if the infection spreads or if there is a large cyst that persists, the surgery may be possible to speed up the healing process.

Chalazion symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • A small lump which develops on an eyelid
  • Mild pain or irritation, particularly if it has just started - this usually settles
  • There is a chance of infection
  • Sight is not affected

Chalazions can occur in various sizes, with a small proportion potentially remaining as a painless lump on the eyelid for up to a few months. A chalazion may also spontaneously discharge when the lid is cleaned or when hot compresses are applied to the area.

Causes of chalazion

The inflammation is caused by a sensitivity to a common bacteria found on your skin. When the openings of the small oil glands around your lashes become blocked by inflammation, a small tender swelling will occur in the lid. This is known as a chalazion.

Other risk factors include rosacea - a common skin condition which can affect the eyelids and eye area. Although it is rare, chalazions can also be a result of an eye condition known as viral conjunctivitis.

Identifying a chalazion vs a stye

It can be difficult to differentiate between a stye and chalazion, as they are both lumps which develop around the eye and are similar in appearance. However, there are differences between styes and chalazions.

The main distinction is that styes tend to be painful and sore, whereas chalazions are typically painless. A stye can occur inside the eyelid or at the eyelash base and indicates an infection in the hair follicle or oil gland. In contrast, a chalazion is a sign of a blocked oil gland, although it can develop into a stye in some circumstances.

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