Meibomian gland lipogranuloma

Alternative names
Chalazion

Definition
Chalazion is a small mass in the eyelid, caused by a blockage of a tiny oil gland in the eyelid.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

A chalazion develops within the Meibomian glands of the eyelid, which are sebaceous glands that produce the surface of the tear film that lubricates the eyes. The eyelid has approximately 100 of these glands, located near the eyelashes.

The condition is caused by obstruction of one of the ducts which drains one of these glands. A chalazion begins as diffuse swelling and tenderness and later forms a cyst-like localized swelling. Many chalazia disappear without treatment after a few months.

Symptoms

     
  • Painful swelling on the eyelid  
  • Eyelid tenderness  
  • Sensitivity to light  
  • Increased tearing

Signs and tests

Examination of eyelid confirms the diagnosis.

Rarely, the Meibomian gland duct can be blocked by a skin cancer. If this is suspected, a biopsy may be needed to diagnose the disorder.

Treatment

The primary treatment is application of warm compresses for 10-15 minutes at least 4 times a day. This may soften the hardened oils blocking the duct and promote drainage and healing.

Chalazia will often disappear without treatment within a month or so. If one continues to enlarge, it may need to be surgically removed using local anesthesia. This is usually done from underneath the eyelid to avoid a scar on the skin. Antibiotic eye drops are usually used several days before and after removal of the cyst, but are otherwise of little value in treating a chalazion.

A chalazion that keeps coming back should be biopsied to rule out tumor.

Expectations (prognosis)

Chalazia usually heal on their own. The outcome with treatment is usually excellent.

Complications

A large chalazion can cause astigmatism due to pressure on the cornea. This will resolve with resolution of the chalazion.

Calling your health care provider

Apply warm compresses and call your health care provider if the swelling progresses or persists longer than one month.

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if lumps on the eyelid continue to enlarge despite treatment or are associated with an area of eyelash loss.

Prevention

Proper cleansing of the eyelid may prevent recurrences in people prone to chalazia. Cleaning the eyelash area with baby shampoo will help reduce clogging of the ducts.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Sharon M. Smith, M.D.

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