Chalazion are a very common problem in the eyelid. Other names for this condition are hordeolum, or styes.

In each eyelid, there are many oil glands which help keep the eye moist. Sometimes these glands can get clogged, often due to conditions like blepharitis or rosacea, or a low-grade mild infection. Since the gland continues to produce oils despite the blockage, it starts to inflate like a balloon and leads to a bump on the eyelid. This lump can grow quickly, often reaching a size of around 1-2 cm within a day

The chalazion can get infected, in which case the skin around it will become red, tender and warm. This is a clear indication that it should be treated by an ophthalmologist quickly, since the infection can spread behind the eye, and potentially into the brain. More often, though, the gland will enlarge for awhile, and then either shrink a little or become hard after a few weeks.

The treatment of these styes starts with warm to hot compresses once a day for about 3-4 minutes, making sure the towel stays warm. Afterwards, a gentle massage to the bump will sometimes force some of the accumulated oil out and shrink the lesion. If there are any of the above mentioned signs of infection, either topical eyedrops or oral medications may be needed in addition to the hot compresses.

If these simple treatments don’t work, then there are alternative office procedures, such as injections of anti-inflammatory medications or a minor surgery to open and remove the blocked gland. These are relatively simple procedures, and can often be done in just a few minutes in an ophthalmologist’s office.

Even if the chalazion has been taken care of, it may be a good idea to continue the hot compresses a few times a week. Once someone develops a chalazion they are often at a higher risk to develop more in the future. Even after surgery to remove a chalazion, there is up to a 15% risk that more can develop, either in the same spot or in a completely different location.

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