Chalazion: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors & Treatments

When a chalazion develops on your eye, it can be a worrying and unsightly issue to deal with. Despite generally being non-threatening and painless, it is still important to know how to recognize them, what causes them, preventative measures you can take and potential treatments for this problem.

What is Chalazion?

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.

Hygiene: 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.

Treatment for Chalazion

Some of the most effective treatments for chalazion include the use of ointments, solutions and medicated pads, as well as the first line of defense – a warm compress.

Warm Compress

This classic solution is often the first thing people try when a chalazion begins to develop. The warm water helps to open the glands and it either clears the blockage or reduces some of the swellings.

Solution

Many companies produce specific solutions of eye drops that can be flushed through the eye in the hopes of clearing out the hardened oil and reducing the inflammation on the eyelid.

Ointment

If the redness and swelling have spread beyond the eyelid to other areas of the skin, or if the chalazion has opened, using an antibiotic ointment (e.g., Neosporin) can help reduce the irritation on the skin. It also helps in protecting the open wound from any infections or external pathogens.

Medicated Pad

Some people choose to apply a medicated pad or an eyelid scrub to physically flush out the blockage from the gland and restore a normal function and eye fluid production.

Home Remedies for Chalazion

Many people prefer to treat their medical conditions more naturally, and in the case of a chalazion, you may use castor oil, apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, green tea bags or onions.

Onions

The active ingredients in onions are antioxidant in nature, but also antibacterial and antiviral. If the chalazion responds well to onion juice being rubbed when gently on the inflammation, it may open, exposing itself to infection, which the onion juice will also defend against.

Aloe Vera

Known as one of the best anti-inflammatory substance on the planet, a bit of aloe vera gel gently applied to the inflamed eyelid can quickly reduce discomfort and restore normal vision. It will also help in encouraging proper gland production by helping to eliminate the hardened oil that is causing the blockage.

Green Tea Bags

After brewing your next cup of green tea, don’t throw away the used tea bag, refrigerate it. You can place these cold green tea bags on your eyelid, allowing the antioxidants to work their magic on the inflamed glands. This helps in eliminating the toxins and restoring normal order to your eyelid.

Apple Cider Vinegar

With powerful detoxifying and antiviral properties, apple cider vinegar is a popular remedy for a chalazion, although it can be dangerous to use this substance. After all it is still vinegar but applying a small amount on the swollen or inflamed eyelid can quickly reduce the swelling and protect against infection.

Castor Oil

Using a small cotton swab, rub a few drops of castor oil on the inflamed skin of the eyelid. You will see an almost immediate reaction. The size of the swelling will be reduced and when the gland is less inflamed, it may be easier to flush out with other remedies, thus allowing it to resume its normal function.

Prevention of Chalazion

The best way to prevent the formation of this swollen bead on your eyelid is to properly remove your makeup before going to sleep. Avoid using cosmetics that haven’t been properly stored. Washing your face with warm water in the evening before bed is also a good practice to clear out excess oil from the face.

Regularly checking the inside of your eyelid for any inflammation is also a good way to catch a chalazion forming before it becomes overly inflamed. This is a particularly good preventative measure for people who have had these in the past, as they are more susceptible to a gland blockage in the near future.

It is very important to protect your eyes from an external damage, which can often be caused by your own fault. For example, don’t rub your eyes unless your fingers are cleaned, and even then, be gentle to avoid inflammation. Also, protect your eyes from dust and debris while walking on a windy day, or working in a dusty environment.

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