A chalazion is a painless eyelid cyst, or a hard lump in your eyelid. It is about the size of a pea.¹ The word “chalazion” means “small hailstone” in Greek.
Chalazia (the plural of chalazion) can be on your upper or lower eyelid, although it’s more common for them to be on the upper.¹ They are more common in adults than in children.¹ They aren’t contagious, but they can last for weeks, months, or even longer. They tend to be harmless and can go away without needing treatment.¹
There are a few possible causes for a chalazion, such as a blocked oil gland in your eyelid.¹ These glands make oil which helps lubricate the surface of your eye. If they become blocked, the oil builds up behind the blockage and makes a hard lump.²
Some skin conditions, like acne⁸, rosacea or seborrhoea, make you more likely to get a chalazion.¹ You may also be more likely to get a chalazion if you have chronic blepharitis (an infection of the edge of the eyelid), especially if you rub your eyes.²
Sometimes a chalazion can develop from a stye, which is a painful, infected lump in your eyelid.
To prevent styes and chalazia, it’s important to use good eye hygiene. Try and make sure your hands are clean before touching your eyes or when using contact lenses. If you wear make-up, remove it before you go to bed¹, and don’t keep using old eye make-up (we’d recommend replacing it every six months to avoid contamination and infection)⁸. To keep your eyelids clean, wash them using warm water and a gentle cleanser like baby shampoo, or with eyelid cleansing wipes.²
If you keep getting chalazia, we’d recommend talking to your doctor. They may suggest using special eyelid scrubs to keep your eyelids clean,¹ or prescribe an antibiotic ointment.³
Especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to keep good eye hygiene. Face masks can make tears evaporate more quickly, which dries out our eyes. We can also touch our faces and eyes more often when adjusting our masks. Of course, it is still very important to wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (and in many places it’s compulsory), but there are things you can do to make them more hygienic for your eyes.
You should wash any cloth masks frequently in hot water and try to avoid touching your face and eye area when adjusting your mask. Putting tape over the top of the mask can prevent the air you’re breathing out from getting into your eyes. Also, if you wear glasses, this can stop them from fogging up.⁹
If you have a lump or cyst or under your eyelid, it may be a chalazion. If this is the case, come and see your optometrist. We’ll be able to have a look at the lump and let you know what it is and how best to treat it. We might use a bright light and a magnifying tool, called a slit lamp, to help us get a better look at it.