Oculase Articles

Chalazion: All your questions answered!

Mr Tariq Ayoub - 26 Jun 2022

Chalazions are very common and can be prevented and treated with simple measures. We discuss all your questions and bust some myths in this article.


What is a chalazion?

A chalazion (also often called an eyelid cyst or a stye) forms due to the blockage of one of the tiny oil glands in the eyelid. It usually appears as a painless, hard lump in the eyelid, although sometimes it can be tender and painful.

How do you get rid of a chalazion?

A regular warm compress of the eyelids can reduce the size of a chalazion. However, it can take several weeks to disappear completely. Definitive treatment involves removal through a tiny cut inside the eyelid. This does not leave a scar on the skin. Rarely, we may need to remove it through a tiny incision on the front of the eyelid, which we would close with dissolvable stitches.

Can they go away on their own?

A warm compress on the eyelids for 5-10 mins 3-4 times/day can reduce the size of a chalazion. The warm compress softens the hard oil blocking the ducts, allowing them to drain and heal. However, it can be a few weeks to several months before it completely disappears.

What happens if you don’t remove it?

Usually, a chalazion will disappear as it heals by itself. However, this can take many months and could lead to infections and discomfort and affect your appearance.

What causes a flare up?

Several oil glands in the eyelids secrete oils to moisten and protect your eyes. The glands can block and swell into a hard lump (chalazion) if these oils become thick and waxy. Sometimes the hard lump can flare up and get infected, causing pain and redness. You will need antibiotics to treat such a flare-up.

Why do they keep coming back?

Blepharitis is a recurrent inflammation of the tiny gland in the eyelids. These inflamed glands can get blocked and cause multiple and recurrent chalazions. Treat your blepharitis to prevent this.

How can I prevent recurrence?

Chalazions recur if you have a condition called blepharitis. Blepharitis is exacerbated by skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis and acne rosacea. We can treat blepharitis with regular lid hygiene and massage of the eyelids. More effective methods of treating blepharitis include BlephEx and IPL therapy. Read more about these treatments here: Dry eye treatments.

Can a chalazion be permanent?

It can resolve with time or can be removed with surgery. It’s not permanent because it is an eyelid cyst, not a tumour or a growth. It does not affect your vision permanently.

Do chalazion’s pop?

Yes, chalazions can sometimes ‘pop’. The blocked gland forms a cyst that can discharge or burst spontaneously through the opening of the gland on the edge of the eyelid or, rarely, through the skin, as the skin on the eyelids is thin.

Can chalazia be removed naturally?

They may go away without treatment over several months. However, regular warm compresses and massaging of the cyst will encourage it to discharge naturally, through the undersurface of the eyelid, sooner.

Will eye drops help?

You may need antibiotic ointment or eyedrops if the chalazion is inflamed. Very rarely, you may have to take antibiotic tablets if it becomes infected. If it becomes very large, you may need surgery to remove it.

Are you awake during surgery?

We usually perform chalazion surgery under local anaesthetic as a day case procedure. As such, you will be awake during the procedure. You can opt to have general anaesthesia if you prefer. However, as it is not major surgery, most people prefer local anaesthesia.

How much is the cost of chalazion surgery?

The cost of the surgery depends on how many chalazions you have and the number of eyelids involved. Contact us to discuss this further.

Do tea bags help Chalazions?

The initial treatment is heat. You can use a warm tea bag, a hot flannel, and warm eyebags as warm compresses. However, the tea itself does not usually impact the chalazion.

Should you massage your chalazion?

Yes, but only after using a warm compress to liquefy the hardened oils. Use your fingers to apply pressure to the cyst, massaging upwards if it is on the lower lid and downwards if it’s on the upper.

The massage aims to encourage the cyst to discharge onto the eye’s surface so you can wipe it away. You should never squeeze the skin as the skin on the island is very thin. This can result in scarring if done repeatedly.

Which antibiotic is best?

Antibiotics are typically not used to treat a chalazion. However, if it becomes infected or you develop cellulitis, you may need antibiotic ointments or tablets.

A range of antibiotics are available to treat an inflamed chalazion. These include non-prescription antibiotics, which are available OTC, such as chloramphenicol ointment, and prescription medications which your ophthalmologist can prescribe, such as penicillin and doxycycline.

Why isn’t my chalazion going away?

Often they resolve with regular hot compress but this can take several months and rarely up to a year. However, if it has not resolved in 4-6 weeks, or if it is bothering you, then you will need surgery to have it removed.

The surgery is a minor procedure with a tiny incision done on the undersurface of the eyelid to drain the contents of the cyst. The surgery is not painful and it does not leave a scar on your skin.

Can a chalazion be cancerous?

Chalazions are not cancers and they will not spread to other parts of the body. However, if it recurs multiple times in the same spot then your doctor may consider a biopsy to remove it to rule out a type of cancer called sebaceous cell carcinoma. This is rare and usually occurs in the elderly.

Does salt water help?

Saltwater itself does not help treat chalazions. However, warm salt water can assist by easing any discomfort. Using hot compresses is probably more effective, however, than the salt itself.

What’s inside a chalazion?

The meibomian gland secretes oils that are naturally released onto the surface of the eye with your tears to lubricate it. These oils harden inside the blocked gland, causing a chalazion.

Does apple cider get rid of a chalazion?

Apple cider in itself is not a treatment. Hot flannels and massaging it regularly are effective treatments.

How would you get rid of a chalazion on your eyelid fast?

There is no quick fix without surgery. We recommend using warm compresses with a hot flannel or a heat mask for 5-10 mins 3-4 times/day.

Use this with a massage, applying pressure with the finger on the cyst, massaging downwards on the upper lid and upwards on the lower.

Does diet affect a chalazion?

Usually, diet does not affect it. However, one should always aim for a balanced and varied diet to maintain good health. There have been some unsubstantiated reports that a high dairy intake may result in blepharitis, which can encourage chalazia to form.

How many days does a chalazion last?

It can last anywhere between 10 days and several months. Regular hot compress and massage can help get rid of it faster. However, if it is large or persisting after 3-4 weeks, or is unsightly to you, consider surgery to get rid of it.

Is a chalazion contagious?

Chalazia are not contagious. It forms due to an inflammation of a blocked meibomian gland in the eyelid.

What type of doctor removes a chalazion?

Chalazion treatment is best performed by an oculoplastic surgeon specialising in the eyelids. The operation is something that they are very familiar with. You are likely to have the best possible outcome under their care. Mr Ayoub is an ophthalmic oculoplastic surgeon and has vast experience in dealing with this issue. Book an appointment with him to have your chalazion removed.

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About the author

Mr Tariq Ayoub
Mr Tariq Ayoub, Consultant Ophthalmologist

Mr Ayoub has been rated as one of the top eye surgeons in the UK. He is a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London, one of the largest NHS trusts in England. He is also the Lead for the Emergency Department at Western Eye Hospital, as part of the Imperial College Trust.

Mr Ayoub completed his Ophthalmology training at the prestigious London School of Ophthalmology, namely at Moorfields Eye Hospital and Royal Free Hospital. During his career, he has received many prestigious awards from national and international organisations for his work in the field of ophthalmology.

His clinical interests include treatment for cataracts, vision correction, corneal disease, eye-lid disorders, trauma, and general ophthalmology. Mr Ayoub prides himself on the high quality of his work. With his extensive experience, he can holistically manage complex eye conditions to deliver the best care for his patients.

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