A chalazion is an inflammation of the glands which surround the eye. Typically a chalazion takes the form of a small lump in the upper or lower eyelid, often near the edge. While the lump is not usually painful, it is unsightly, and when it bursts, it can lead to an infection in the eye. Therefore, it is important to get treatment for a chalazion when one appears. A chalazion may also be called a meibomian or tarsal cyst, a reference to the glands which are involved.
Normally, the glands around the eye produce small amounts of oil to lubricate the eye and the skin around it. The oil, also called sebum, prevents the fluid on the surface of the eye from evaporating, and also helps to seal the eyes when they are shut. Sometimes, the glands start producing oil which is too thick to flow out, and the oil blocks the gland. The gland keeps producing oil, causing an inflamed lump to appear.
Left alone, a chalazion will eventually drain itself out. However, use of warm compresses and gentle massage can help to accelerate the process. This is usually recommended by a doctor, who also prescribes antibiotics to prevent infection of the eye. In some instances, a doctor may drain or remove the chalazion, if this seems to be indicated. It is important to seek medical treatment for any eye condition, as an untreated eye condition could have lasting impact on your vision.
A chalazion is not a sty. A sty, sometimes spelled stye, is an infection of the glands around the eyelid, rather than an inflammation. Unlike a chalazion, which is caused by overproduction of sebum, a sty is caused by a bacterial agent, commonly Staphyloccocus. A sty is also characterized by more extreme pain. The treatment for a sty may be different, which is why it is important to be treated by a doctor for eye conditions, so that you can ensure that you get the appropriate care.
There are some steps which can be taken to prevent a chalazion. They often appear when people rub their eyes frequently. If you rub your eyes, you may want to visit a doctor to find out what the underlying cause of the pain or irritation which leads you to rub your eyes is. You should also wash your hands before putting them around your eyes or other mucus membranes, as these delicate tissues are more likely to become inflamed or infected than your skin.