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Chalazion (meibomian cyst)

What is a meibomian cyst?

It is a type of fluid-filled cyst in the upper or lower eyelid that is often felt as a small lump.

Diagram of a side view of the eyeball showing the chalazion in the upper eyelid, conjunctiva behind it and eyelash below the eyeball

What causes it?

There are lots of tiny oil glands just under the inner surface of the eyelids, called meibomian glands. These make an oily fluid to help lubricate the eye. If the gland becomes blocked then the oil cannot escape into the tears. This will then cause a cyst to form.

What symptoms does a cyst cause?

An eye cyst can cause symptoms including:

  • a small lump in the eyelid
  • mild pain or irritation
  • an infection, making it swollen red and painful

How is a cyst treated?

Cysts can often go away without treatment, however this may take a long time or the symptoms may become problematic. There are different treatment options outlined below.

Hot compress

This helps to ease discomfort. Hold a clean flannel that has been in hot water gently but firmly against the closed eye for 5 to 10 minutes, 1 to 2 times a day. Sometimes this warmth and slight pressure is enough to soften the contents of the cyst helping it drain more easily. (The water should be hot but comfortable and not scalding).

Massage

Massaging the cyst after using a hot compress can encourage the cyst to drain. Do this gently, with a clean finger or cotton bud, in the direction of the eyelashes.

Lid hygiene

Cleaning the eyelids twice per day removes grease and debris that may contribute to cysts forming and will help reduce any blockage. A weak solution of baby shampoo (a few drops) in cool boiled water is ideal. Dip a cotton bud or pad into this solution and clean gently along the roots of the eyelashes.

A small operation

This is an option if the cyst does not go or it is causing troublesome symptoms.

The operation is usually done under general anaesthetic. The affected eye lid is folded over and a small cut is then made on the inside of the eyelid to release the contents of the cyst and it is scraped out (stitches are not required). The eye is then padded shut to help stop bruising and bleeding. The eye pad is usually removed before going home. Antibiotic ointment is prescribed to use for a few days after surgery.

After treatment

Some children are prone to developing further cysts and may require more treatment or surgery. You can help prevent further cysts by regularly using hot compresses and lid hygiene.

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Disclaimer

Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

Resource number: EYE61

Resource Type: Article

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Sheffield
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

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