What is a chalazion?

A chalazion is a cyst in the eyelid. They are also referred to as styes, but these are actually medically known as a hordeolum. Chalazia are very common. They are a nuisance but are not a serious problem.

Click here for images of a chalazion.

What is a chalazion? On the edge of our eyelids just below the eyelash line, are a row of oil glands. There are 40-50 on each eyelid. The glands open onto the surface of the eye releasing oil, known as meibom, into your tears. The oil is needed to make the tears good quality. Without it, the tears are too thin and don’t sit on the surface of the eye properly.

Just as our skin or scalp condition changes from week to week; sometimes dry, sometimes oily, the eyelid oil gland flow can become sluggish. The oil then builds up inside the gland. This build up causes the lump known as a chalazion. More than one gland can be blocked causing multiple cysts. The cysts are usually the same colour as your normal skin or slightly red. In some cases, the surrounding skin can become very swollen and red due to superficial infection. You may even see the blocked opening as a white spot on the eyelid rim when you look closely in the mirror. It is easy for your ophthalmologist to see it using the slit lamp microscope.

The good news is that with heat, to dilate the blocked pores, and massage of the lid the congestion and oil build up usually discharges, and the cyst will settle. Less than half of cases need surgery. Have a look at my instructional leaflet on how to do effective heat and lid massage. It is straightforward when you know how. If you are worried and would like an opinion on your chalazion, then book a consultation for a personalised treatment plan.