What is a Chalazion?

A chalazion is a cyst caused by a blockage of the oil glands (meibomian glands) that are situated within the eyelids.

It is a common condition which occurs due to inflammation around the opening of the oil glands at the base of the eyelashes. The inflammation (called blepharitis) is caused by sensitivity to a common bacteria found on the skin. When the opening of the small oil glands around the lashes becomes blocked by inflammation, a small tender swelling occurs in the eyelid. This is known as a chalazion. It is frequently referred to as a ‘stye’ and although the appearances may be similar, a stye represents an infection of the eyelash follicles and is usually more painful.

How is it treated?

Initial treatment involves intensive and regular warm compress and massaging your eyelid. The warm compresses may be performed using a commercially available eyelid heat mask. Alternatively, cotton wool or a clean flannel may be soaked in boiled, cooled water. The excess warm water is squeezed out and the cotton wool/flannel is placed and gently pressed onto the closed eyelids over the chalazion for two to three minutes at a time. This is followed by massaging the eyelids gently towards the lashes.

Antibiotics may also be prescribed to reduce the inflammation and treat any infection that may be present. If the chalazion does not respond to this first stage of the treatment, a minor procedure may be carried out to drain it. Mr Patel will assess your eyelids and provide you with a treatment plan.

How is it drained?

Anaesthetic eye drops are placed on the eye and the skin around the chalazion is cleaned with antiseptic solution. A small amount of anaesthetic is injected around the chalazion. This stings at first but the lid soon becomes numb. You may still be able to feel touch and pressure. A small incision is placed on the inner surface of your eyelid so that the contents of the cyst can be drained.

Antibiotic ointment is applied and a pad placed over your eye. The eye may be a little sore after the anaesthetic wears off and any regular pain killers that you take my help alleviate the discomfort. You will be given instructions on applying the ointment and advice of maintaining hygiene to reduce the risk of infection.

Can it recur?

A chalazion that has resolved itself or been treated can come back after being removed. Also, each eyelid has 30-50 glands and any one of these can get blocked. If this happens, it is advisable to start the heat compresses at the earliest and seek a review if it fails to settle.

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