Along the upper and lower lids are located a number of glands that manufacture part of the tear film that protects and lubricates the eyeball. If one of these glands becomes blocked, a small lump forms. This is called a chalazion.
Chalazia may vary in size from small, almost invisible lumps, to rather large masses as big as a little fingernail. Sometimes tender in their early stages, they are later painful and frequently will form a firm swelling in the lid. This lump can distort the eyeball, causing blurred vision if left untreated.
Chalazia are not caused by infection. They may become a site for infection once they have become established, however.
Their exact cause remains unknown. Several conditions are associated with chalazia: seborrhea, chronic lid inflammation, dry eyes, and acne. Once a chalazion has formed, the chances of getting another one in the next two years are very high.
Most chalazia will disappear in a few weeks without any special therapy. To help them go away, frequent hot packs throughout the day and drops are helpful, especially in the early stages. In some cases, oral medications can help prevent recurrences.
If a chalazion persists, a simple in-office surgical procedure can be performed to remove it. The chalazion is drained from the inside or the outside of the lid after a small injection of a local anesthetic. The eye is often patched overnight to insure proper healing. Healing tends to be uncomplicated with minor pain only, but chalazia can recur and excision cannot guarantee complete resolution.