What is Chalazion

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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A chalazion is a cyst that develops on the eyelid as the result of a blockage in one of your eye’s oil glands. This blockage will cause an inflammatory response in the eye, thus the swelling and redness. While the majority of chalazion cases affect the meibomian gland, it can also be caused by blockage of the gland of Zeis.

Due to the similar appearance of this condition and styes, which also affect the eye, it is critical that you speak with a doctor when you begin experiencing the symptoms of chalazion. The swelling and inflammation may worsen over the course of days or weeks, so it is best to see a medical professional as soon as you can for a proper diagnosis.

Chalazion vs. Stye

There are many similarities between a chalazion and a stye, which explain why they are so often confused for one another. A stye tends to develop at the edge of your eyelid and is typically painful. While a chalazion is caused by a blockage of an oil gland, a stye is normally caused by an infection of a gland. Also, styes are contagious, due to their cause, which is not true for chalazion. Styes will often develop very quickly with inflammation and pain, which often appear overnight.

Causes of Chalazion

This irritating condition, as mentioned above, is caused when excess oil begins to harden inside or on the edge of two glands in the eyelid. The meibomian gland is responsible for providing meibum to the surface of the eye, which prevents the protective film on the eye from evaporating. The gland of Zeis functions to secrete an oily substance into the hair follicle of the eyelash. If either of these glands is blocked in some way, typically by hardening of its own oil, a chalazion can begin to form.

Essentially, the body detects a foreign body that is impeding normal function of these glands, resulting in an inflammatory response. Just as in cases of acne, these small sebaceous-type glands also have a buildup of oil behind them, further exacerbating the swelling and redness.

Risk Factors for Chalazion

While this condition can strike anyone, people with certain other health conditions or habits may be at higher risk. Individuals with poor hygiene habits, chronic disease, skin conditions or history with this condition are more likely to get affected.

Prior Chalazion or Stye

If you have ever developed this sort of blockage before, or if your glands have been infected, you are at a higher risk of this disease occurring again. Pay close attention to any irritation or inflammation in your eye.


If you have poor personal hygiene, or if you fail to remove eye makeup before going to sleep, you have a high chance of developing a chalazion. Also, only use cosmetics that have been stored properly and haven’t expired. The presence of viruses and bacteria, along with pollutants and irritants, can make their way into your makeup and block your glands, if the cosmetics are expired.

Chronic Disease

Certain diseases, such as cancer, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, impact a huge number of the body’s functions, even something as simple as oil production in glands. If you suffer from a chronic disease or regularly take medication for some type of health issue, your likelihood of developing a chalazion is higher.

Skin Conditions

Perhaps the biggest risk factor for a chalazion is a history of other sebaceous gland blockages, such as a problem with acne. Other conditions like dandruff, rosacea or psoriasis may also be an indicator of this condition.

Symptoms of Chalazion

The most obvious symptom of this condition is the inflamed, red and swollen eyelid. The irritated area is usually near the middle of the eyelid, rather than in the corner, which is more indicative of a stye. This condition can affect both the upper and the lower eyelid and may cause impairment of your vision if it is inflamed excessively.

What comes as a surprise is that a chalazion doesn’t usually hurt but it can cause increased irritation around the edges of the eye and further on your skin. These symptoms can be remedied, but if left untreated, it could take weeks or months for the swelling to naturally fade.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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