A chalazion is a cyst (swollen area of tissue filled with fluid) that develops on the eyelid. The cyst is not usually painful, but can take a while to go down. Only very large chalazions can affect vision, by pressing on the eye.

What causes a chalazion?

A chalazion is caused by a gland in the eyelid becoming blocked. Meibomian glands are located on the inside surfaces of the eyelids and release an oily fluid that keeps the surface of the eye moist. If a meibomian gland becomes blocked, the fluid can build up to form a cyst. Over time, the cyst can harden to form a nodule.

What are the signs and symptoms of a chalazion?

While the cyst is forming, it can be uncomfortable but this soon settles. The cyst feels like a small lump but the swelling may spread to the rest of the eyelid. If the cyst becomes infected, the area will become a lot more swollen and painful.

How is chalazion diagnosed?

No special tests are needed to diagnose a chalazion. Usually the doctor will look closely at the child’s eyes and take a medical history.

How is chalazion treated?

Many chalazions improve without treatment, usually within a few months. If it is not causing any problems, treatment may not be needed. 

Applying a warm flannel to the eyelid can help reduce any discomfort and may also soften the cyst so that the fluid drains away. Cleaning the area with a cotton bud and cooled, boiled water can also be helpful. 

On rare occasions where the cyst is causing problems, it may need to be removed by an ophthalmologist (specialist eye doctor) in a short procedure.

What happens next?

In the majority of cases, a chalazion does not cause any problems. If it becomes infected, urgent treatment will be needed as the infection can spread to surrounding tissue.

Usually, chalazions do not come back but some people seem to be more prone to them than others. 

Good hygiene, especially eye and hand hygiene can reduce the risk of them recurring.

Compiled by: 
The Eye Department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Last review date: 
March 2013