A lump on your eyelid might cause irritation, redness, and pain. Many conditions can trigger an eyelid bump.
Often, these lesions are harmless and nothing to worry about. But they can also be a sign of eyelid cancer.
Read on to learn more about the most common symptoms of eyelid cancer.
Most cases of eyelid cancer are skin cancers. Your eyelids contain the thinnest and most sensitive skin on your body. This means they’re easily affected by sun exposure.
Between 5 and 10 percent of all skin cancers occur on the eyelid. The majority of eyelid cancers are either basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas — two very treatable types of skin cancer.
Common features of eyelid cancer include a:
- bump that’s smooth, shiny, and waxy, or firm and red
- sore that’s bloody, crusty, or scabbed
- flat, skin-colored or brown lesion that look like a scar
- scaly and rough red or brown skin patch
- flat spot with a scaly surface that itches or is tender
Lumps related to eyelid cancer can appear red, brown, flesh-colored, or black. They may spread, change in appearance, or struggle to heal properly.
More than half of all eyelid cancers form on the lower part of the eyelid. Less common sites include the upper lid, eyebrow, inner corner of your eye, or outer corner of your eye.
Additional symptoms of eyelid cancer are:
- loss of eyelashes
- swelling or thickening of the eyelid
- chronic infections of the eyelid
- a stye that doesn’t heal
Eyelid lumps can be caused by several other conditions, most of which aren’t serious.
A stye is a small, red, and painful bump that usually crops up near your eyelashes or under your eyelid. Most sties are caused by a bacterial infection. Sometimes, they can swell up and affect your entire eyelid.
You can help relieve the discomfort of a stye by placing a warm compress over your eyelid for 5 to 10 minutes and taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. You should see your doctor if your stye becomes very painful or doesn’t get better.
Blepharitis is a skin condition that causes swelling around your eyelids and eyelashes. Bacteria and other skin conditions often cause blepharitis. You’re more likely to get sties if you have blepharitis.
Often, washing your eyelids and lashes can help control blepharitis. You may also want to apply a warm compress to help control symptoms. Or, you might need to take antibiotics or try another type of treatment.
A chalazion is a swollen bump that appears on your eyelid. It happens when your eyelid’s oil glands clog up. If a chalazion grows larger, it can press on your eye and affect your vision.
It’s often difficult to distinguish between a chalazion and a stye. Chalazions are usually not painful and develop further back on the eyelid than a stye. They typically don’t cause your entire eyelid to swell.
Many chalazions will heal on their own after a few weeks. But, see your doctor if your symptoms are severe or don’t go away.
Xanthelasma is a condition that occurs when fats build up under the surface of your skin. A xanthelasma palpebra is a common type of xanthoma that forms on the eyelids. It might look like a yellow or orangish bump with defined borders. You may have several lumps, and in some cases, they can form clusters.
You should see your doctor if you develop a xanthelasma palpebra because the bumps are sometimes indicators of other medical conditions.
See a doctor if your eyelid bump grows, bleeds, ulcerates, or doesn’t heal like it should. It’s always a good idea to make an appointment with a healthcare provider if your lump concerns you in any way.
To diagnose the lump on your eyelid, your doctor might first perform an eye exam. They may recommend that you see an eye specialist, like an ophthalmologist.
If cancer is suspected, your doctor might perform a biopsy by removing all or part of the lump. This sample is then sent to a lab to view under a microscope.
Surgery is the standard treatment for eyelid cancer. Your surgeon will remove the eyelid lesion and perform reconstruction on your remaining skin.
Two common surgery techniques — Mohs microsurgery and frozen section control — are performed to remove eyelid tumors. With both procedures, surgeons take out the tumor and a small area of skin around it in thin layers. They examine each layer for tumor cells as it’s removed.
Other treatment therapies that may be used include:
- Radiation. High-energy X-rays are delivered to kill cancer cells.
- Chemo or targeted therapy. Topical chemotherapy, in the form of eye drops, is sometimes recommended after surgery. Your doctor might also suggest that you use a topical cream called imiquimod if you have basal cell carcinoma.
- Cryotherapy. This procedure uses extreme cold to treat cancer.
The best way to prevent eyelid cancer is to avoid prolonged sun exposure. When you’re in the sun, wear a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing. Also, use sunscreen to protect your skin if you’ll be outside for a long period of time.
Other ways to avoid eyelid cancer include:
- Don’t smoke. If you currently smoke, talk to a medical professional about a smoking cessation program to help you quit.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Keep stress levels low.
If you have a lump on your eyelid, it’s important to know that there are many possible causes that aren’t cancer. It’s most likely a harmless bump that will go away on its own. Eyelid cancer is a possibility, so see your doctor if you’re concerned.