A chalazion is the proper name for an obstructed oil gland in the lid that becomes swollen and tender when fresh. It may "come to a head" and drain the oil with rapid clearing OR may slowly form a firm nodule that can take weeks or months to clear as the body removes the oil a molecule at a time.A 'stye' is a lay term for the same thing.If this sounds a lot like a pimple that's because a chalazion is essentially the same thing, except that the oil gland is MUCH larger and surrounded by cartilage instead of soft tissue.
It is NOT an infection! It is a jumbo, armor-plated pimple. Most people are treated with antibiotics because that is what they are expecting and it is faster to write a prescription that convince a patient who 'knows' that they need an antibiotic. Don't believe me? Watch how many people argue with me here. The material that comes out of a pimple is the same, greasy, broken down oils, but not infection.
A hordeolum is an infection or abscess in the glands but is relatively rare, outnumbered 1000 to 1 by chalazions, and has true green, foul pus inside.How do you treat a pimple? Hot compresses help them "come to a head" and drain. Sometimes, if large, uncomfortable or unsightly enough, they are surgically opened and drained. Either way, when the oil comes out the inflammation resolves quickly. You know how a deep pimple lingers if it doesn't drain? Same with the chalazion.
Hot compresses still help a little. Stubborn ones can be treated with a steroid injection into the nodule. Careful here: these injections can permanently depigment darkly pigmented skin!Patients with recurrent chalazia are treated with tetracycline or tetracycline analogues as a PREVENTIVE measure, just as acne patients are. The tetracycline somehow alters the oils and reduces inflammation. Not especially effective for a new chalazion.
Hope this helps clear the confusion.Paul G Mitchell, MDSee Also: Who First Discovered Cells
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