Chalazion is an extremely common condition- in my practice, I see several cases per week. It is essentially a mild condition, but causes significant distress because they cause swelling of the eyelid and are extremely visible. If you or anyone you know has ever had a chalazion, here’s five things you may not have known about the condition:
- They are not caused by infection
A chalazion presents as a red swelling on the eyelid, and many assume it is caused by an infection of the eyelid. Some joke that it is caused by looking at attractive members of the opposite gender! On the contrary, a chalazion is formed when the opening of an oil gland at the base of an eyelash gets blocked with dirt. The oily secretions of the gland get trapped behind the blocked opening, and result in a swelling on the eyelid.
Although generally sterile, chalazions can become infected if left untreated or if the overlying skin is broken. This can result in severe eyelid swelling and pain, and needs to be treated with antibiotics without delay.
- They can happen at any age
Chalazions happen in both young and old, because the oil gland openings can become blocked at any age. However, if a chalazion keeps recurring at the same spot on the eyelid of an elderly person, the possibility of an eyelid cancer needs to be borne in mind, and a biopsy of the eyelid should be performed.
- Small chalazions can be managed without the need for a surgical procedure
Small chalazions may be amenable to conservative treatment. Warm compresses should be applied twice a day to the affected area, with the hope that the warmth can cause the gland opening to dilate and allow trapped secretions to be released. However, if the chalazion is longstanding, secretions tend to harden and are thus impossible to release from a small gland opening. In those cases, a small surgical procedure may be required to release the trapped oily secretions.
- If a surgical procedure is required, it can be done without a scar
The surgical procedure is done under local anesthesia in an Ophthalmology clinic. No sedation or general anesthesia is required. After injection of a pain killer medication under the skin of the eyelid, a clamp is applied to the eyelid to reduce bleeding. The eyelid is then everted and an incision is made on the underside of the eyelid. Trapped secretions are then removed through the incision. As the incision is made on the underside of the eyelid, no visible scar remains after the procedure is over.
- Regular maintenance is required to prevent them from recurring
It is important to maintain a routine of eyelid cleansing, in order to prevent oil glands on the eyelash margin from becoming blocked. An Ophthalmologist typically prescribes an eyelid cleaning solution or wipes, which should be used twice daily to remove all dirt from the eyelid margin that may cause glands to become blocked.
I hope this has been useful to you. Do let me know in the comments if there are other topics you would like me to cover!