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Nurse Checking Girl

What is a chalazion?


There are very microscopic oil glands along the edge of the eyelids called meibomian glands. They produce the greasy part of the tears which stop them evaporating away too quickly.   Sometimes a gland gets blocked and then swells up because the grease cannot get out. A firm, round lump forms in the lid, which is called a chalazion or stye.

Often the blocked gland becomes inflamed or infected and the chalazion will be red and sore. The cyst may press on the eye and blur the vision a little. Sometimes the contents of the cyst will burst through the skin or through the lining of the eyelid.

What surgery is required for a chalazion?

Chalazions very often gets better by themselves after several months. If it does not, a minor operation called “Incision and Curettage” (I&C) can help. The surgery only takes a few minutes.  The procedure is often done in the procedure room of our eye clinic.  However your child has chalazion then often the procedure need general anaesthesia and is performed in a day surgery center. 

For the procedure you are asked to lie down on a couch in the operating room. Local anaesthetic drops are put in your eyes to numb them. The eyelids are cleaned with an iodine-containing antiseptic solution. Local anaesthetic is injected into the lid which stings for 10-20 seconds. After this the lid is numb and you should not feel further pain.

A small cut is made on the inside of the eyelid and the contents of the cyst are scooped out.  There will not be any incision on the outside skin of the eye lid. In most cases the contents of the cyst are discarded. Occasionally the contents of the cyst are sent to the pathology laboratory for microscopic checks to make sure that it is harmless; this is a “biopsy”.

At the end of the operation antibiotic ointment is put in the eye and an eye pad is put on. You will be given the ointment to use at home, usually three times a day for one week. Usually no more appointments are required.

What happens after the operation?

After the operation you can take the eye pad off the next day. You may find some blood and discharge in and around your eye. This is quite normal and can be removed by bathing the lids gently with cool boiled water. Your tears for the next 2-3 days may appear pink it is also normal.  Once the anaesthetic solution has worn off you may have a little discomfort for a day or so. You can take paracetamol tablets if necessary. The eyelid may look bruised and swollen for a few weeks after the operation. You can apply ice pack over your eye lid to reduce the swelling and pain.  You should not wear contact lenses until the eye feels normal again.

You should not drive home after the operation so please come to the clinic by public transport or arrange for someone to drive you home.

Rarely the cyst may seem to persist after the operation. Usually this is because another one has started to form. In this case you should contact our clinic and arrangements will be made to see you again.

What happens if my child has a chalazion?

In children surgery is done under general anaesthetic as a day case. Your child will need to be checked at a pre-assessment visit, a short while before the operation, to make sure that they are fit and well for the anaesthetic. It is best to postpone the surgery if your child is unwell eg. a cough and cold. You will be told when to stop giving food and drink before the operation. It is often worth waiting a little to see if your child’s cyst will get better on its own so that a general anaesthetic can be avoided.

How do I prevent further chalazions?

Sometimes a cyst will develop because of an underlying lid or skin problem e.g. blepharitis, acne. Regular eye lid cleaning can help reduce recurrence.  If acne is excessive your eye   specialist may refer you to a skin specialist.

What should I do if a chalazion occurs again?

If you feel another cyst is developing, use hot flannels on your eyelid or hold your closed eye over a bowl of steaming hot water. This helps the pores in the eyelid to open up and for the grease to drain out. Take care not to burn your eyelid with the hot water. Do this several times a day, for a few days.   If it fails to resolve you may contact our eye clinic again for repeat appointment.

Chalazion: Feature
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