A chalazion is a small cyst, or lump, that develops on your eyelid.
It’s usually a result of a blockage in the glands of your eyelid that produce oil. This causes your eyelid to redden and swell. Eventually, a visible lump can develop.
Chalazions typically aren’t painful and often go away on their own within two to eight weeks. But if you’ve had one for several months or it’s starting to interfere with your vision, your healthcare provider may recommend surgical removal.
Read on to learn more about the procedure, including how it’s done and the recovery time involved.
Chalazion surgery isn’t considered a major surgery, but it does involve anesthesia.
Depending on your health needs, age, and health history, you may be given a local anesthetic that only affects your eye area or a general anesthetic that completely puts you to sleep for the procedure.
Before surgery, make sure to tell your doctor or anesthesiologist about any medications you’re taking, including:
- over-the-counter (OTC) medications
- prescription medications
- vitamins and supplements
- herbal remedies
Be sure to also mention any health conditions you have, especially if you snore or have sleep apnea. Both of these issues may increase your risk of certain anesthesia side effects. You’ll also want to let them know if you’ve had a bad reaction to anesthesia in the past.
Alcohol and drug use could also affect how you respond to anesthesia, so it’s important to be honest with your surgeon about any recent substance use. If you smoke, it’s recommended to avoid smoking as much as possible before surgery.
If you wear artificial nails or nail polish, you may be asked to remove them before surgery. The color of your nail bed is a useful indicator of your circulation and pulse while you’re under anesthesia.
You’ll be given additional information about how to prepare, including whether you can eat or drink before surgery, from your healthcare provider.
can i drive home?
Since you’ll need some kind of anesthesia from the procedure, make arrangements ahead of time to have someone take you home. The procedure is a quick outpatient surgery, so you’ll be able to go home the same day in most cases.
Surgery may take place in a hospital, but some clinics might perform it directly in the office. Before the surgery, you’ll be given anesthesia, so you won’t feel anything during the procedure.
Once the anesthesia has taken effect, the surgeon performs these steps:
- uses a clamp to keep your eye open
- makes a small incision on your outer eyelid (for a larger chalazion) or inner eyelid (for a smaller one)
- scrapes out the contents of the chalazion
- closes the incision with dissolvable stitches
If you get chalazions frequently, they may follow up by doing a biopsy on the contents of the chalazion to check for potential underlying causes.
The actual procedure takes about 10 minutes, but the full process, including preparation and anesthesia, takes around 45 minutes.
After surgery, you’ll be prescribed antibiotics. In some cases, you might also be given a steroid ointment.
Make sure to take any prescribed medications. The antibiotics will help keep the site from becoming infected, and steroids can help treat any inflammation you might experience after the surgery.
You may also be given eye pads or an eye patch to protect your eye.
Don’t be alarmed if you notice some swelling or bruising around your eye. The surgical site may also leak a reddish fluid for a few days. All of these are normal.
You can use a cold compress on your eye a few hours after your surgery to reduce swelling.
Try applying moist heat to the site the day after your surgery. Your surgeon may even send you home with detailed instructions on how do do this. Using moist heat on the surgery site three times a day can help the wound to drain and reduce the chance of the chalazion returning.
Following surgery, you’ll want to avoid:
- rubbing or touching your eyes
- wearing contact lenses for a week
- getting water in your eyes when showering
- wearing makeup for one month
The surgical incision should heal in about 7 to 10 days. But it’s a good idea to avoid any activities that could potentially injure your eye for at least two weeks.
As you recover, apply moist heat to your eye three times a day for 10 minutes at a time. Continue doing this for five days after surgery.
You’ll also want to avoid wearing contact lenses for about a week and eye makeup for up to a month after surgery.
Chalazion surgery is a low-risk procedure, but it does still carry a few risks.
The procedure may damage the glands responsible for maintaining your tear film. This is one reason why your doctor may recommend waiting to see if the chalazion goes away on its own before removing it surgically.
Other potential risks include:
There’s also a chance the chalazion could reappear, but following the aftercare plan recommended by your healthcare provider can reduce your risk.
In addition, there are some risks associated with anesthesia. But common side effects, such as nausea and sore throat, are minor. Going over your health history with the anesthesiologist can help to avoid any negative reactions.
As you recover, call your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:
- redness and swelling that doesn’t go down
- yellow or thick discharge (some light, bloody discharge is normal)
- increased pain or pain that doesn’t improve with OTC medications
- vision problems other than temporary blurriness
- a fever higher than 101°F (38°C)
If your chalazion doesn’t go away on its own, your healthcare provider may recommend surgical removal. This is a relatively quick, safe procedure. Just make sure to follow your healthcare provider’s aftercare instructions to avoid complications.