Your eyelids contain 30-40 oil glands called meibomian glands, which lie dispersed within the upper and lower lids. These glands secrete oil into your tears which help to lubricate the eye. Each gland has a drainage duct that can become obstructed or “clogged” resulting in a visibly red and painful lump called a Chalazion. The lump may appear to increase in size over a period of weeks and are most commonly found on the upper eyelid.
When to Seek Medical Care
You should call your ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of eye disease) for an appointment if eyelid redness or swelling does not improve with warm-towel compresses in three to four days.
You should contact your ophthalmologist immediately if you have frequent bouts of eyelid swelling or if you experience any of the following:
- Any visual changes (for example, blurred vision, decreased ability to see)
- Eye pain or drainage
- Extensive swelling or redness
- If both the upper eyelid and the lower eyelid of one eye are swollen
- If both eyes are swollen
Self-Care at Home
- Warm compresses may be helpful. Hold a warm, wet towel on the eyelid for five to 10 minutes, four times a day, to reduce swelling and promote drainage of the gland. Although the towel and the water should be clean, they need not be sterile.
- Lightly massage the area several times a day.
- Do not “pop” or scratch the chalazion
If a chalazion creates significant symptoms or lasts for weeks, it may need to be surgically removed. If the swelling has lasted more than a few weeks or creates symptoms of mild blurring of the vision, your ophthalmologist may recommend surgery to remove the chalazion. If the appearance of the chalazion bothers you, surgical removal may also be indicated. If medication and at home treatments fail, a chalazion can be drained surgically. This is a simple, out-patient procedure generally lasting between 15-20 minutes long, and requires no stitches or needles.