Eyelid Cyst

There are many forms of eyelid cysts. Sometimes painful and sometimes not, eyelid cysts can be infectious and can alter a person’s appearance. If the infection is left untreated long enough, it can affect your vision. Most types of eyelid cysts go away on their own, but others require antibiotics or surgery to get rid of them.

Eyelid Cyst Symptoms

  • Lumps on eyelids or around eyes
  • Redness
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Discoloration
  • Discharge
  • Eye crust
  • Pain
  • Discomfort when blinking
  • Itchiness

Many people can feel an eyelid cyst forming, but others have no clue that one is about to develop. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, try your best not to touch or rub your eyes.

Causes of Eyelid Cysts

The transfer of dirt, debris, and bacteria into or around your eyes can lead to the formation of these unsightly lumps or cysts. The most common causes of eyelid cysts are:

  • Staph bacteria
  • Eye duct blockage
  • Poor hygiene
  • Dirty contacts
  • Chronic Blepharitis
  • Out-of-date cosmetics
  • Leaving make-up on overnight
  • Touching or rubbing eyes, especially with unwashed hands

Risk Factors for Eyelid Cysts

Certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing an eyelid cyst. They include:

  • History of cysts
  • Chronic blepharitis
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Chronic skin problems
  • Problems with oil gland secretion in eyelids
  • Exposure to bacteria

Types of Eyelid Cysts

There are many different types of eyelid cysts, including:

  • Styes: Styes are abscess in the oil glands, and they are one of the most common forms of eyelid cysts. The infection causes the cyst to become red, swollen, and tender. A stye usually lasts one to three days; styes lasting longer than that should immediately be attended to by a doctor.
  • Chalazia (also known as meibomian cysts): A chalazion is a lump on the eyelid. Normally, it is the result of debris that is left after an infection. Chalazia usually last eight to sixteen weeks. They may be painful, and if they last longer than sixteen weeks, surgery may be necessary to remove them. During the surgery, local anesthesia is applied and the cyst is scraped out.
  • Sweat Gland Cysts: These are very common too. They tend to be round, shiny, transparent lumps that appear near the tear ducts.
  • Keratosis: These cysts are a combination of keratin and tissue and are found in various forms. There are three types of keratosis cysts: actinic, seborrheic, and keratosis pilaris.
  • Inclusion Cysts: These cysts are white and cause a painless swelling of the eyelid. Although they are generally considered to be harmless, they should be checked out by an eye care professional.
  • Nevi: A nevus is a flesh-colored growth found on the eyelid. They are more commonly known as birthmarks or moles, and are benign. Nevi are usually brown or black in color, and are usually congenital, although they can be acquired.

Diagnosing Eyelid Cysts

If symptoms of an eyelid cyst develop, you should visit an eye doctor who can diagnose the type of cyst you have and determine the cause. Most eyelid cysts can be diagnosed with a complete eye exam. The eyelids and eyelashes will also be examined closely. Your eye doctor will check your eyelid structure, skin texture, and eyelash appearance. Once a proper diagnosis is made an appropriate treatment plan can be created.

Treating Eyelid Cysts

If you have a cyst on your eyelid, the best treatment starts with better personal hygiene. Keep your hands and fingers and the area around your eyes clean at all times. Try your best not to touch or rub your eyes at all. This can help prevent the bacteria from spreading. If you use cosmetics, throw them away and buy new ones after the cyst is gone. This will prevent the spread of bacteria that could be infecting your eye make-up. Avoid sharing your eye make-up, even with those closest to you.

If your eyelid cyst is out of control, too painful to deal with, or has lasted longer than it’s supposed to, seek medical attention. Your eye doctor will either put you on antibiotics or perform surgery to remove the cyst. Your doctor can also show you what steps to take to prevent the cyst from recurring.

A common way to relieve discomfort from a cyst on the eyelid is to apply warm compresses. Hold the compress to the eyelid for ten to twenty minutes several times a day. Wash your eyelids with baby shampoo diluted with water, or use a commercial product designed to wash eyelids.

Cysts are usually only removed for cosmetic reasons. Rarely do they pose a significant threat to anyone’s overall eye health. Most eyelid cysts do not obstruct vision or pose an immediate problem for the eye. Talk with your eye care provider about possible treatment options for a cyst on the eyelid.

Prognosis for Eyelid Cysts

In many cases, the eyelid cyst will go away on its own within a few weeks. On rare occasions, the cyst will enlarge and symptoms will worsen. Cysts can usually be treated effectively, but they may recur in people who are at higher risk.

Preventing Eyelid Cysts

An congenital eyelid cyst (a nevus) cannot be prevented. However, most types of eyelid cysts can be prevented by maintaining basic hygiene habits and by avoiding sharing certain items with others (e.g., towels, make-up, and eye drops). Keeping your hands clean can prevent bacteria from being transferred when you touch or rub your eyes. If you are prone to a certain type of eyelid cyst, such as chalazia, ask your eye doctor about additional prevention steps.


Talking to Your Eye Doctor

  • What can I do to prevent eyelid cysts from recurring?
  • Are there any over-the-counter products available to help reduce symptoms?
  • Can you prescribe me a medication to use when the cysts appear?
  • What is causing cysts to develop on my eyelids?
  • Which type of cyst do I have? Can you tell me a little more about this particular type of cyst?
  • Based on the type of cyst I have, what are my treatment options?
  • Will I need to see a specialist for the removal of my eyelid cyst?


Did you know … Chalazia are more common in adults than children, frequently affecting people between the ages of 30 and 50.

  • S. Moore, MD; S. Yoder, MD “Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery” (The Berkeley Publishing Group, 2006) 218; 622
  • Frank Meronk, MD, Benign Eyelid Lumps and Bumps, http://www.dr.meronk.com/eyelid/bumps.html
  • American Optometric Association, Chalazion, http://www.aoa.org/x9762.xml
This article was last updated on 07/2014