Chalazion (Stye)

Reviewed by Jill E. Bixler, M.D.

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What Is a Chalazion (Stye)?

Chalazion is a swelling in your eyelid caused by chronic inflammation of one of the small oil producing glands (meibomian glands) located in the upper and lower eyelids. This swelling is localized and often resembles a pea-like lump under your eyelid skin. A chalazion is usually a reaction to trapped oil secretions and not caused by bacteria, although the site can become secondarily infected by bacteria.

When a chalazion is small and without symptoms, it may disappear without treatment. If the chalazion is large, it may cause blurred vision by distorting the shape of your eye. A chalazion is sometimes confused with a stye, which also appears as a lump in the eyelid. Chalazions usually occur farther from the edge of the eyelid than styes, and are usually not very tender. A stye is an acute inflammatory infection of an eyelash follicle and forms a red, sore lump near the edge of the lid margin.

Symptoms

  • Lump and/or swelling in the eyelid
  • Blurred vision
  • Mild tenderness in the area of swelling

The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have a chalazion. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your ophthalmologist for a complete exam.

Causes

A chalazion is caused when the oil produced in meibomian glands becomes too thick to be secreted or the opening of the oil gland becomes too narrow for the oil to drain easily.  The gland continues to produce oil but it has nowhere to drain so it causes enlargement of the gland and inflammation in the tissues surrounding it. This leads to the lump in the eyelid.

Risk Factors

People with various forms of blepharitis may be predisposed to chalazions.

Tests and Diagnosis

Chalazions are diagnosed clinically and there are no special tests that need to be performed.

Treatment and Drugs

Chalazions may be treated with one or a combination of the following:

  • Gentle massage to express the glandular secretions
  • Warm compresses for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day
  • Antibiotic or steroid drops or injections
  • Surgical drainage

Chalazions usually respond well to treatment, although some people are prone to recurrences and may require continuing medication. If a chalazion recurs in the same place, your ophthalmologist may suggest a biopsy to rule out a more serious problem. Occasionally, a chalazion can cause the entire eyelid to swell suddenly.

Clinic Information

For more information, see the Comprehensive Ophthalmology and Cataract Surgery Clinic and the complete Clinic Services listing of the U-M Kellogg Eye Center.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 19-Feb-2014 08:52:05 EST