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Chalazion or Stye

There are approximately 30 glands in the upper and lower eyelids that are responsible for producing oil that stabilizes your tear film.  These glands are called meibomian glands.  The oil produced by meibomian glands protects your tears from evaporating.  Occasionally, one of these meibomian glands can become blocked and backfill causing a red swollen lump on your upper or lower eyelid called a chalazion.

A chalazion is often confused with a stye, which also appears as a lump on your eyelid.  However, a stye is an infection of an eyelash and is treated differently.  A chalazion is not an infection and therefore does not usually respond to simple antibiotic treatment.

The treatment for a chalazion usually starts with:

  1. A warm compress that will heat up the blocked oil gland.
  2. Eyelid massage in order to help the blocked gland drain.
  3. Occasionally medication can be used to decrease inflammation and promote drainage of the blocked oil gland.
  4. Surgery may be necessary to drain a chalazion that is not responsive to the above treatment.

Surgery involves giving a local anesthetic and making an incision on the inside of your eyelid to drain the blocked oil gland.  Surgery may not always be successful. A chalazion can recur and does not always go away completely.

A chalazion if left untreated will usually become smaller, less red, and harder as the gland stops producing oil.  An untreated chalazion will not cause vision loss or other problems with the health of your eye.  However, a chalazion can rarely be associated with a secondary skin infection called cellulitis.  This would involve the entire eyelid becoming swollen.  Cellulitis is more serious and requires oral antibiotic treatment.

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