Bumps on the eyelids can be bothersome. Whether they are red and painful, or just big and unsightly, eyelid bumps are frustrating. You may be surprised to learn that bumps on the eyelid may be connected to dry eyes, and that measures can be taken to treat or prevent both.
Identifying Lumps and Bumps
Typically, eyelid bumps are one of two things: a chalazion, or a hordeolum. A chalazion is caused when one of the millions of Meibomian glands that line our eyelids becomes blocked or clogged. The contents of the gland pile up inside a nodule on our eyelid, creating a noticeable bump. Chalazia are painless, small, and firm, and can appear on the upper or lower eyelid. Hordeolums occur when a gland is actively infected. Unlike a chalazion, a hordeolum is painful and tender to touch. Hordeolums typically appear much more red in color, and the surrounding skin may also become discolored.
Do Lumps Cause Dry Eye Disease?
On their own, chalazia and hordeolums do not cause dry eye disease. However, they commonly are an indication of concurrent Meibomian gland dysfunction. As you know, the glands affected in a chalazion or a hordeolum are important for secreting a vital ingredient in our tears. When these glands are chronically blocked, clogged, or dysfunctional, as they oftentimes are in MGD, infections or inflammation can occur, resulting in a chalazion and hordeolum. Blepharitis, a term given when there is an excessive amount of debris in the lashes, is a condition that increases the risk for Meibomain gland dysfunction, and is very commonly found in patients with a chalazion or a hordeolum. The inter-relation between these conditions gives us a good idea in how to manage them, and how to prevent them in the future.
How to treat Lumps, Bumps, and MGD
Treatment for eyelid problems depends on the exact diagnosis. Chalazia will likely resolve on their own and rarely require treatment at all. However, in cases of a large chalazion that will not resolve, your optometrist may prescribe a topical ointment, or consider referring you for removal of the bump. Treatments for hordeolums may depend on the size of the lesion; small bumps may simply require a warm compress and an antibiotic ointment, where larger, more painful bumps oral medication or further medical intervention to treat the infection. To prevent future occurrences of these bumps, focus on lid hygiene and treating Meibomian gland dysfunction. Warm compresses for 15-20 minutes followed by a gentle lid massage can prevent oil accumulation. Lid scrubs and facial hygiene can reduce the risk of infections and debris accumulation.
Chalazia and hordeolums can be interrelated; a resolving hordeolum can turn into a chalazion, or a chalazion can become infected and turn into a painful hordeolum. Likewise, some types of skin cancers can masquerade as painless chalazia that continue to return. For these reasons, we recommend getting all eyelid bumps examined by your doctor. They can provide an accurate diagnosis of the bump, recommend the appropriate treatment, and even help manage concurrent dry eye disease and Meibomian gland dysfunction.