Chalazia are cysts that form in the eyelids. They are formed as a result of tiny tear glands in the lids being blocked by oil secretions that harden. Chalazia are uncomfortable, but tend to resolve without treatment after about a month. Rarely, chalazia may indicate skin cancer. Evaluation of chalazia, or a single chalazion, is recommended to rule out this possibility.
Chalazia are often confused with styes or sties, which are eyelash hair follicles which have become infected with bacteria. When people are affected by chalazia, they may note significant swelling in the eyelid. Usually, only one chalazion forms. The eye may tear up quite readily, and those affected may notice an increased sensitivity to light, called photosensitivity. Touching the eyelid usually results in pain, as it is extremely tender and sensitive. One may also feel a hard bump as the cyst forms.
Chalazia are often mistaken for other types of eye infections like pinkeye. Generally, examination by a doctor will result in the appropriate diagnosis of chalazia. No special testing is required. The physician merely needs to examine the eyelid to determine presence of chalazia.
Treatment of chalazia is also fairly simple. Patients are asked to place warm compresses on their eyes for about 15 minutes, three or more times a day. Compression can help clear the blockage. Unlike conditions like pinkeye, chalazia do not usually need to be treated with antibiotic ointment, since they are not of infectious origin. A chalazion is also not likely to spread to the other eye.
Complications of chalazia may occur if the cyst does not resolve within a month, or when people repeatedly get a chalazion in the same location. A chalazion that keeps recurring may be skin cancer, and should be biopsied to rule out cancer. Chalazia that fail to go away may require surgical removal if they do not respond to treatment.
Occasionally chalazia can form large cysts that temporarily affect sight, causing astigmatism. Astigmatism resolves when the chalazion clears, but it can present problems to those who are not otherwise sight impaired. Doctors may recommend not driving until sight returns to normal.
Chalazia tend to respond well to treatment and do not recur. Though initial pain can be quite uncomfortable, several days of treatment begin to resolve pain. One should not stop treatment, however, without advice from a doctor.