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Chalazion removal

Published by Bupa’s Health Information Team, August 2011.

This factsheet is for people who are having a chalazion removed, or who would like information about it.

A chalazion is a cyst (a small sac of fluid) on the inside of the eyelid. It's also called a meibomian cyst. A chalazion can be mistaken for a stye and can grow to the size of a pea. If a chalazion is large, causing discomfort or affecting vision, it can be removed using surgery.

You will meet the doctor carrying out your procedure to discuss your care. It may differ from what is described here as it will be designed to meet your individual needs.

About chalazion removal

A chalazion is a blocked meibomian gland in your eyelid. When there is more than one chalazion they are called chalazia.

The meibomian glands help to keep your eyes moist by preventing the watery layer on the surface of your eyes (tears) from evaporating. They do this by producing an oily film over the tears.

The meibomian glands are in the middle of your eyelid, just behind your eyelashes. There are usually more glands in your upper eyelid, which means you’re more likely to develop a chalazion in your upper eyelid.

A chalazion will sometimes get better on its own. However, your doctor may suggest an operation to remove it if it:

  • is large
  • is uncomfortable
  • affects your vision
  • doesn’t get better with other treatments

The operation will be carried out by an ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specialises in eye health, including eye surgery.

What are the alternatives?

There are several alternatives to surgery. Your doctor may try these first before suggesting surgery. The main alternatives are listed below.

  • A hot compress put onto the chalazion for five to 10 minutes, four times a day, followed by a gentle eyelid massage. This can help the contents of the chalazion to drain away.
  • Steroid injection. This is injected directly into the centre of the chalazion. The chalazion usually goes away one to two weeks after the injection.

Preparing for chalazion removal

The operation is usually done as an outpatient or day case at the hospital. This means you have the procedure and go home the same day.

Most chalazia are removed using local anaesthesia. A local anaesthetic completely blocks pain from your eyelid and eye. You will stay awake during the procedure.

Your ophthalmologist will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure, and any pain you might have. This is your opportunity to understand what will happen, and you can help yourself by preparing questions to ask about the risks, benefits and any alternatives to the procedure. This will help you to be informed, so you can give your consent for the procedure to go ahead, which you may be asked to do by signing a consent form. 

What happens during chalazion removal

The ophthalmologist will inject a local anaesthetic under the skin of your eyelid to numb the area. He or she may also use a local anaesthetic cream.

When the anaesthetic has taken effect, your eyelid will be lifted up and turned inside out using a small clamp. This helps the ophthalmologist to see the chalazion easily and also helps to control any bleeding. You may feel some pressure when the clamp is put on, but it shouldn't be painful.

A small cut is made over the cyst on the inside of your eyelid. The contents of the cyst are then removed. No stitches are used and the cut is left open. The cut heals very quickly with only a small scar on the inside of your eyelid.

If you have chalazia that keep coming back, your ophthalmologist may take a biopsy of the cyst during the operation. A biopsy is a small sample of tissue. This will be sent to a laboratory for testing to determine if it's benign (not cancerous) or cancerous.

Immediately after the procedure antibiotic ointment is put in your eye to prevent infection. Your eye is then covered with a dressing.

What to expect afterwards

After a local anaesthetic you will usually be able to go home when you feel ready.

You may need pain relief to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off.

You may be asked to keep the dressing in place over your eye for a few hours. If this is the case, or if your sight is blurred after the procedure, you shouldn’t drive. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home.

Before you go home, your nurse will give you antibiotic ointment or eye drops to use for between five and seven days. The nurse will show you how to use this and give you advice about caring for your eye. You may be given a date for a follow-up appointment.

Recovering from chalazion removal

If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

Your eyelid may be swollen and bruised for up to a week after your operation.

Contact your GP or the hospital if you have severe pain, increasing swelling and redness of the eyelid, or you have discharge coming from your eye or wound. This may mean you have an infection.

What are the risks?

As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with chalazion removal. We have not included the chance of these happening as they are specific to you and differ for every person. Ask your doctor to explain how these risks apply to you.

Side-effects

Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure.

You may have mild pain and discomfort around your eyelid after the operation. The area may also be inflamed and swollen. This should get better in the week after the operation. 

Complications

Complications are when problems occur during or after the operation. Most people aren’t affected. The main complications of chalazion removal are listed below. 

  • The wound may become infected.
  • Bleeding, which you may be able to see on the white of your eye. This kind of bleeding usually gets better on its own.
  • The chalazion may come back after the operation. This can happen if it was not drained well enough during the operation. If the chalazion comes back, see your GP for advice.

  

For answers to frequently asked questions on this topic, see FAQs.

For sources and links to further information, see Resources.

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  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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  • Publication date: August 2011

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