Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
The cyst present at the level of the eyelid is known in the medical world as chalazion. The other names for the cyst include: conjunctival granuloma, tarsal cyst or meibomian cyst. This appears as a lump, either on the upper or the lower eyelid. The chalazion occurs as the oil glands at the level of the eyelids become inflamed or obstructed. It is important not to mistake the cyst on the eyelid with a tumorous growth; also, the chalazion cannot cause vision-related problems. As for the treatment, in the majority of the cases, the cyst disappears on its own, with no surgical intervention being necessary.
Types of Eyelid Cysts
These are the types of cysts that can appear at the level of the eyelid:
- Chalazion (meibomian cyst)
- Stye (hordeolum)
- Sweat gland cyst
- Keratosis cyst (actinic, seborrheic and keratosis pilaris)
- Inclusion cyst.
The cyst that appears at the level of the eyelid can have various sizes but it almost always maintains a characteristic spherical shape. In regard to its texture, it can either be soft or firm. In general, the texture of the cyst is determined by its contents (filled with fluid, semi-solid or solid). The characteristics of the eyelid cyst can guide doctors in making a final diagnosis.
Anatomy of the Eyelid
The glands that are present at the level of the eyelids are known as meibomian glands. In the medical world, these are also presented as tarsoconjunctival glands or as palpebral glands. Some medical treatises describe them as tarsal glands. Each of the eyelids, upper and lower, contains approximately 30 and 40 meibomian glands. The purpose of these glands is produce a liquid that will eventually reach the tear film. The liquid produced by the meibomian glands is actually sebum, its main constituting elements being mucus and oil. The purpose of this liquid is to lubricate the surface of the eye. Where are these glands located? Well, they are located just behind the eyelashes of each eyelid.
As it was already said, the obstruction of the meibomian gland is one of the main reasons why the cyst at the level of the eyelid forms. There are two situations that can lead to the formation of the eyelid cyst. On one hand, the opening through which the meibomian glands secretes its liquid can become narrow, this leading to the excess clogging of the sebum. On the other hand, the sebaceous liquid can harden on its own, clogging the opening of the gland. Because of the excess accumulation of sebum, a secondary inflammatory process is going to appear (hence the characteristic swelling). The inflammation is going to be present at the level of the eyelid and also, more specifically, at the level of the respective meibomian gland.
Unfortunately, the risk of infection is quite high, if there are any bacteria around the inflamed meibomian gland. In this situation, the cyst will progress from being a chalazion to a hordeolum or a stye, which may easily be mistaken for a pimple. It is important to understand that, even though the chalazion does not associate an infectious process, it can appear before the hordeolum.
Symptoms of Cyst on Eyelid
These are the most common symptoms that can accompany the cyst on eyelid:
- Tenderness to the touch
- Pain or discomfort (especially when closing and opening the eyelids)
- Crust formation
What Causes Eyelid Cysts?
These are the most common causes that can lead to the formation of eyelids cysts:
- Bacterial infection (most commonly, with staphylococcus)
- Inadequate hygiene measures
- Not cleaning your contact lenses on a regular basis (bacteria can be easily transferred at the level of the eyelid)
- Chronic inflammation of the eyelid (blepharitis)
- Low-quality or expired makeup products
- Not washing the makeup or leaving it for a prolonged period of time
- Dirty hands (as you touch or rub your eyes, you are transferring bacteria at the level of the eyelid).
Apart from the causes that were mentioned above, there are a number of risk factors that should be taken into consideration. For example, if that person has suffered from similar problems in the past or if he/she has a problem with the functioning of the meibomian glands, the risk of developing an eyelid cyst is higher.
Pictures of Eyelid Cyst
These are the methods used for the diagnosis of the eyelid cyst:
- Medical history of the patient
- Similar problems in the past
- Current and past treatments (including surgical interventions)
- When did the cyst appear for the first time
- Are there any other symptoms besides the actual cyst
- Presence of meibomian gland dysfunction
- Complete eye examination (performed by the ophthalmologist)
- Close examination of the eye and the eyelids
- Assessment of:
- Structure of the eyelid
- Health of the skin at the level of the respective eyelid
- General appearance of the eyelashes.
How to get rid of Cyst on Eyelid?
These are the most common measures of treatment recommended for the cyst at the level of the eyelid:
- Antibiotic drops or ointments
- Recommended in case of bacterial infection
- The antibiotics have to be taken for as long as they are prescribed, otherwise the bacteria can develop resistance to the treatment
- Surgical removal
- Recommended in patients with persistent cysts (who are also dissatisfied with the aesthetic appearance)
- This is an outpatient procedure, which means it will be performed with local anesthesia
- A small incision is going to be made at the level of the respective eyelid, in order to remove the cyst
- The removal of the eyelid cyst does not present any risks (one does not have to worry about the overall functioning of the eyelid being affected or that the tear film will not have the same quality).
Natural remedies for Chalazion
These are the natural remedies recommended for the cyst on eyelid:
- Warm compress
- Increase the blood flow in the area → promote a faster and a more efficient healing process
- Eyelid washing
- Baby shampoo + water
- Alternative – store-bought product recommended especially for such purposes
- Eyelid massage
- Purpose – unclog the meibomian glands
- The massage should be performed in a gentle manner, so as not to aggravate the condition
- It is recommended to wash your hands thoroughly before the actual massage, so as to reduce the risk of secondary bacterial infection
- The massage of the eyelids can be performed several times per day.
Even though the eyelid cyst on its own does not interfere with vision, it may cause difficulties seeing, in the situation that it becomes too large in size. Once the eyelid cyst has been surgically removed, it is 100% certain that the vision is going to go back to normal. It is important to understand that there is no association between the eyelid cyst and the appearance of glaucoma. Also, the eyelid cyst presents absolutely no risks for malignancy. If the eyelid cyst does not become infected, there is no risk of being transmitted (not contagious). However, in the situation that a secondary bacterial infection occurs, it is for the best to avoid the contact with the respective person.
How to Prevent Cyst on Eyelid
The importance of prevention is more significant in individuals who present thicker gland secretions. Also, prevention is essential, in the situation that you have suffered from such problems before. Other medical conditions in which taking preventative measures is essential include acne rosacea and seborrhea. A good way to prevent the clogging of the Meibomian glands is to apply a warm compress to the eyelids, with at least five minutes before going to bed. Apart from that, you should also consider cleansing the margins of the eyelids, so as to remove the excess production of sebum. Tetracycline, administered in a low oral dose, can prevent the appearance of cysts at the level of the eyelids. It has been found that the administration of this antibiotic modifies the metabolism of the meibomian glands, actually improving their overall functioning.