A chalazion, also known as a meibomian cyst, is a common condition affecting the eyelid. The cyst (fluid-filled swelling) is usually felt as a small lump. Occasionally, it can become infected. It is caused by blockage of a gland in the eyelid. If it is causing problems and does not settle on its own, it can be removed with a small operation.
A chalazion is a small (2-8 mm) cyst (fluid-filled swelling) in the eyelid. It is common and sometimes called a meibomian cyst or tarsal cyst. A chalazion is more common on the upper eyelid and can affect both eyes. It is not the same as a stye.
There are tiny glands just under the inner surface of the eyelid. These make an oily fluid to help lubricate the eye. If the gland gets blocked then the fluid cannot escape and it may swell into a cyst. A chalazion is not normally infected. Over time, inflammation causes a nodule (or granuloma) to form. This is a firm, more solid lump that remains for a long time (is chronic). This lump is the chalazion.
A chalazion can occur following an internal stye (hordeolum). They are also more common in people who have the eye condition blepharitis, or skin conditions such as eczema. (See separate leaflets called 'Stye' and 'Blepharitis' for more information).
Antibiotic ointments, drops and medicines are not recommended as they do not make any difference - the contents of the cyst are sterile (infection-free).
Most cysts cause few, if any, problems. Rarely a cyst can become infected, and this infection can spread to involve the whole eyelid and tissues surrounding the eye. The eyelid may be very swollen and red, you might not be able to open the eye and you may have a lot of pain and fever. Sometimes the eyeball is pushed forward so that your eye sticks out more, and you may be very sensitive to the light. If you develop this type of complication, called orbital cellulitis, you need to see a medical professional urgently. Treatment of orbital cellulitis is with antibiotics, usually intravenously via a drip, in hospital.
For most people a chalazion occurs just once. However, some people are prone to developing them and it may recur. You may be able to prevent it from recurring by using a hot compress on the eyelids (described above) and massaging the eyelids each morning.