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Chalazion (Lump in Eyelid)

What Is a Chalazion?

The definition of a chalazion is a lump in the upper or lower eyelid that is caused by obstruction of the drainage duct of an oil gland within the eyelid. This lump may increase in size over days to weeks and may occasionally become red, warm, or painful. The gland involved in the formation of a chalazion is an oil gland unique to the eyelids called a meibomian gland. These glands secrete oil onto the surface of the eyes with each blink to keep the corneas well lubricated. The opening of the glands are located at the rim or edge of the eyelids. When one of these glands becomes blocked, it can increase in size and cause a visible lump.

  • A chalazion is not contagious.
  • It can develop at any age, including childhood.

It is usually painless, although the area may be somewhat tender to touch. It is fairly common and will often disappear on its own or with treatment with warm compresses.

What Causes a Chalazion?

Each of the meibomian oil glands produces oil that flows out of the gland onto the eye's surface. There are about 40-50 meibomian glands within the upper lid and about 25 within the lower lid. They are actually located within the tarsal plate, which is a firm tissue located under the skin of the lids. The oil exits from each gland through a tiny circular opening just behind the eyelashes of the upper and lower lids of both eyes. A chalazion is caused by the oil in the gland becoming too thick to flow out of the gland or the opening of the gland being obstructed. Without anywhere to go, the oil builds up inside of the eyelid gland and forms a type of meibomian cyst. The trapped oily material can have the texture of solid butter or even hardened wax. The gland wall may leak, releasing the oil into the tissue of the eyelid, causing inflammation and sometimes scar tissue. Alternative names for a chalazion include conjunctival granuloma, internal hordeolum, conjunctival lipogranuloma, or meibomian gland lipogranuloma.

Chalazion vs. Stye (Sty)

A stye is also a lump or cyst in the eyelid caused by obstruction of an eyelid gland. A stye, or hordeolum, is a plugged oil or sweat gland in the skin of the eyelid and usually resolves much more quickly than a chalazion. Like a chalazion, a stye may start out as an inflammation but can become infected as well.

Last Reviewed 9/11/2017

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Causes of Eye Pain

Styes and Chalazia

A sty or a chalazion causes eye pain because of local irritation. Either of these conditions cause a lump you can see or feel within the eyelid. The lump is a result of a blocked oil gland within the eyelid. This lump causes irritation to the eye, can be very painful to the touch, and can occur in both children and adults.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Chalazion »

A chalazion (Greek for hailstone) is a lipogranuloma of either a meibomian gland or a Zeis gland.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary