Definition A chalazion is a mass or cyst in the upper or lower eyelid that is benign, or non-cancerous. Chalazions are often chronic, which means that they recur frequently.
What is going on in the body? A chalazion starts with inflammation of the meibomian gland. This is one of the glands of the eye that produces a substance to keep the eyelids separated. The eyelids may stick together, and one of the tear ducts becomes blocked. The eyelid then becomes inflamed and a cyst, or chalazion, develops. This condition may take a few days to a few weeks to develop.
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? Symptoms of a chalazion include a swelling in the upper or lower lid, which may become red. Usually these masses are not painful. If a bump in the upper eyelid becomes large enough, it can cause blurred vision. Other symptoms are facial swelling and increased tearing.
What are the causes and risks of the condition? Chalazions are usually caused by a build-up of secretions in the meibomian gland that form a cyst. Chalazions occur most often in adults. They may be linked with other skin conditions, such as seborrheic dermatitis, blepharitis, and rosacea.
What can be done to prevent the condition? Good eyelid hygiene will help prevent chalazions. The lashes and eyelids should be cleaned daily, and all make-up completely removed.
How is the condition diagnosed? A doctor can make the diagnosis of chalazion by looking at the eyelid and feeling the mass.
What are the long-term effects of the condition? If the chalazion is left untreated, the eyelid can be permanently scarred, resulting in lost or crooked eyelashes. A large, untreated chalazion can cause astigmatism, and blurred vision.
What are the risks to others? A chalazion is not contagious and presents no risk to others.
What are the treatments for the condition? Most chalazions go away on their own in a few weeks or months. If not, hot packs used for 10 minutes 4 times a day may help reduce the chalazion. Antibiotic ointments or drops, with or without a steroid, may help it resolve. Oral antibiotics are not usually given for this problem.
If the chalazion is quite large or has not responded to treatment, it may be removed surgically. Local anaesthesia is used, and the lid is usually turned inside out with a lid clamp. This allows the lesion to be drained and completely removed from the underside of the lid. Then a pressure bandage with antibiotic ointment is usually applied for several hours. More antibiotic ointment can be used for 4 to 5 days. Rarely, a corticosteroid medication is injected into the chalazion.
What are the side effects of the treatments? Side effects depend on the treatment used. Topical ointments and drops may cause local irritation. Surgery carries a risk of infection, bleeding, and further eye problems.
What happens after treatment for the condition? If a chalazion occurs repeatedly or has a solid appearance, a biopsy may be done. This will help rule out an extremely rare cancer called sebaceous gland carcinoma.
How is the condition monitored? Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.
Author: Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia Last Updated: 1/10/2001 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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