A chalazion is the medical term for a bump on the eyelid that occurs due to an oil gland blockage. At first, the eyelid may appear to be red, tender and swollen. After several days, a chalazion may form on the eyelid, appearing as a slow growing lump. While it is initially painless and nearly impossible to detect, with steady growth, the chalazion may become noticeable and bothersome. Chalazia are most common in adults between the ages of 30 to 50, although individuals of all ages, including children, can develop a chalazion.
Initially, chalazia can be difficult to diagnose, as they are often confused with styes. A stye is also a red, swollen bump along the eyelid. However, styes are located on the edge of the eyelid or inside the eyelid’s immediate surface. Typically, they are more painful than a chalazion and occur closer to the eyelid’s surface. A stye is caused by an infection of the oil gland within the eyelid; a chalazion, in contrast, is caused by a blockage of the actual oil gland.
Causes and Risk Factors
Glands within the eyelids known as the meibomian glands naturally produce oil. Should a blockage within these glands occur, oil will build up inside the gland and eventually thicken, forming a lump. In some cases, the gland may even break open, releasing the oil into the surrounding eyelid tissue, which causes inflammation. In some cases, having a stye can also eventually result in a chalazion. Risk factors for chalazion development include blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids and eyelashes) and conditions associated with excessive oil production, such as seborrhea and acne rosacea.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In some cases, a chalazion will resolve itself over the course of several weeks without the need for medical intervention. At-home remedies can speed the healing process. For example, an eye care provider may recommend the application of a warm compress to the eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes three to four times per day. Warmth from the compress can help soften the hardened oil that is blocking the gland, facilitating the healing process. Firm massage on the external area of the eyelid after the warm compress may also help to facilitate drainage. Never attempt to squeeze or drain a chalazion by yourself. If the chalazion does not heal within one month, contact your eye doctor for additional medical care.