Boulder Eye Surgeons
Donald J. Keller, MD & Brian E. Nichols, MD PhD

Styes and Chalazia

A chalazion is a swelling in the eyelid caused by inflammation of one of the small oil producing glands located in the upper and lower eyelids. A chalazion is sometimes confused with a stye, which also appears as a lump in the eyelid, but is an infection of a lash follicle that forms a red, sore lump.

Chalazia tend to occur farther from the edge of the eyelid than styes and tend to "point" toward the inside of the eyelid. Sometimes a chalazion can cause the entire eyelid to swell suddenly, but usually there is a definite tender point.

stye or chalazion

When a chalazion is small and without symptoms, it may disappear on its own. If the chalazion is large, it may cause blurred vision. Chalazia are treated with any or a combination of the following methods:

  • Warm compresses can be applied. The simplest way is to hold a clean washcloth, soaked in hot water, against the closed lid. Do this for one minute, three or four times (or more, if possible) a day. Repeatedly soak the washcloth in hot water to maintain adequate heat. The majority of chalazions will disappear within a few weeks. Sometimes antibiotic ointments are used in combination with warm compresses.
  • Surgical incision or excision may be used to remove large chalazia which do not respond to other treatments.

Chalazia usually respond well to treatment, although some people are prone to recurrences. If a chalazion recurs in the same place, your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) may suggest a biopsy to rule out more serious problems.

Chalazia are usually associated with blepharitis, or lid margin disease. Treatment of the blepharitis usually helps reduce or prevent the recurrence of chalazia.