Chalazia are small bumps that develop when an oil gland on the eyelid becomes blocked. They are similar to styes, with the difference being that styes happen when the oil gland becomes inflamed. Usually, chalazia are larger than styes and not as painful. They can appear on any eyelid and usually don’t require treatment, as they simply go away in one month. However, if you believe you have a chalazion, you should consult with a doctor because they can sometimes grow so large that they block vision. Additionally, they can be caused by skin cancer, so you must be checked for that.
Causes of Chalazia and Risk Factors
A chalazion is a bump that occurs on the eyelid when a Meibomian gland becomes blocked. These glands produce the oily, or lipid, element in the tear film. Some people are more at risk of developing chalazia than others, including:
- Those with unclean hands.
- Those who have had chalazia before.
- Those who have skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis or rosacea.
- Those who have tuberculosis.
- Those who have a viral infection.
People who regularly touch their eyelids are at increased risk of developing a chalazion, because the hands and fingers can carry a lot of microscopic dirt, which in turn can block the Meibomian glands.
Symptoms of a Chalazion
Chalazia have a number of common symptoms:
- Photophobia (sensitivity to light).
- Blocked or blurred vision.
- Increased tearing.
- Hard lumps on the eyelid that weren’t there before.
These symptoms are different from a stye, and you must learn to recognize the difference between the two in order to find the proper treatment. With a stye, the most common symptoms are:
- Redness and tenderness on the affected eyelid
- Scratchiness and irritation in the eye
- A red bump on the eyelid, with a pus spot in the middle
- Eyelid margin crusting
There are significant differences between chalazia and stye. The key difference is that a stye usually hurts, whereas a chalazion does not. However, it is quite common for someone who had a stye to then also develop a chalazion. This is why it is important to speak to a physician to get a full diagnosis. Additionally, a chalazion usually develops farther away from the edge of the eyelid, whereas styes develop on the eyelid as well. The reason why a chalazion is generally not painful is because it isn’t caused by an infection, meaning there is no inflammation.
In about 25% of chalazion cases, there are no symptoms at all. They also disappear without any treatment. However, there are occasions in which the chalazia can get tender, swollen, and red. And if they grow even larger, they can cause some vision problems because the shape of the eye becomes distorted. It is also not unheard of for people to experience a sudden swelling of the entire eyelid.
Usually, a physician will be able to look closely at the bump on your eye to determine whether it is a chalazion. They will also ask about the symptoms that you experience, which will tell them whether it is a stye, a chalazion, or something else altogether. It is possible to clinically diagnose a chalazion, but no specific tests have to be performed.
Treating chalazia varies depending on the situation. In most cases, no treatment is needed, as the bump will disappear on its own. There is no need to take antibiotics, because they are not caused by bacterial infection. If the chalazion bothers you, however, there are treatment options available, as the table below explains.
|At home care||· Warm compresses can be used for 10 minutes each time, several times per day.
· At home care softens the oils in the gland that is blocked, thereby reducing the swelling.
· The lump may start to drain by itself.
· Massage may also be beneficial to help drain the lump.
|· Always wash your hands first.
· Always use clean compresses.
|Medical treatment||· Offered if chalazion does not go after a month.
· Surgical removal is possible but generally offered as a last resort.
· Steroid injections may be offered with cortisone, which helps to reduce the swelling.
· Preferred option for those with chalazia that continue to grow.
· Needed if the chalazion blocks your vision.
· Can be recommended if you develop astigmatism, whereby the cornea starts to curve abnormally.
· Biopsy may be taken to rule out skin cancer
· Antibiotic ointments may be prescribed if it is believed that a bacterial infection is also present.
|· Complications are always possible with surgical solutions.
· Steroid injections have many side effects.
It is important to never try to pop a chalazion yourself, or a stye for that matter. This is because it could lead to an infection, and this infection could spread. Additionally, while you have a chalazion (or a stye), you should not wear eye makeup and leave your contact lenses out.
Both styes and chalazia generally respond well to treatment. However, it is common for them to recur. With styes, this just means that further treatment is required. With a chalazion, however, if it reappears in the exact same place, an ophthalmologist may want to investigate the causes further.
Complications of a Chalazion
In most cases, a chalazion will not lead to any complications. However, in very rare cases, an infection can occur, and this has the potential to spread to the other tissues of the eye. This is characterized by a red, swollen eyelid that may be difficult to open. You will also experience a lot of pain and are likely to develop a fever.
Another potential complication is for the eyeball to be pushed forward, meaning the eye bulges. It is common to develop photophobia at that point. If this happens, a condition known as orbital cellulitis, you must seek urgent medical treatment. Orbital cellulitis generally responds well to intravenous antibiotic treatment, which must be administered in a hospital.
Avoiding a chalazion is not always possible, particularly if you have had it before. However, you can lower your chances of developing it by making sure no dirt reaches your eyelids. This means always having a clean face and hands. If chalazia recur very often, you may want to try washing your eyelids with baby shampoo. This helps to clean the area but will not irritate your eyes. Warm compresses help as well, not just when you have a chalazion, but also to help prevent it. Applying a compress before going to bed each night means there is less chance of blockages in your eyelids occurring, thereby also reducing the chance of developing a chalazion.
Resources and References:
<a href=”http://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/chalazion-stye-treatment”>American Academy of Ophthalmology</a> – Chalazia and Stye Treatment (AAO.org)
<a href=”http://kellogg.umich.edu/patientcare/conditions/chalazion.html”>Kellogg Eye Center</a> – Chalazion (Kellogg.umich.edu)