The upper and lower eyelids have small openings at the base of each eyelash as well as on the eyelid margins which secrete oils into the tear film in order to keep the eyes moist. Sometimes, one or more of these porous openings can become clogged with oily debris, dry flakes, bacteria, or a combination. This can lead to swelling of the surrounding tissues forming what is called a “stye” or a chalazion. The area may be red and tender, but often is just painlessly enlarged.
Despite the appearance, most chalazia are completely benign, and only need conservative treatment at home, with hot compresses, firm pressure massaged onto the swollen
area to help express the oils daily, and sometimes gentle washes with diluted baby shampoo and warm water. Sometimes, an eye drop, ointment, or oral antibiotic may be prescribed. Occasionally, a chalazion may become infected, in which case there may be a fever and the entire lid will swell shut. This requires more immediate attention.
The typical chalazion will regress with treatment over a period of a few weeks, but some may linger for up to a year. If a chalazion persists and is disfiguring or irritating despite all the treatments, surgical excision in the operating room under anesthesia may be necessary. Also, if a child is prone to getting multiple chalazia repeatedly, he or she should be assessed for an underlying eyelid inflammation called blepharitis.