At the tail end of the sinus infection I picked up in France, my left eye started to swell up. Ever since living for two years in a basement apartment in college, I've become quite the connoisseur of sinus infections, but this was new on me. It started when I noticed a tender spot in my lower eyelid. Naturally, I resorted to the first diagnostic test of any body ailment: I poked it. Yup, that hurt, so I stopped poking it. Good thing, too, because the next day, it was swollen. Like most body parts, the eyelid is one I forget all about until something is wrong with it. And now it was pressing against my eyeball, which made me poke at it, which caused it to swell more. I finally broke the vicious cycle by not poking it.
But the swelling didn't really go away. I no longer felt pressure on my eyelid, but I clearly had a bump in my eyelid. Luckily, it's not really that noticeable because of my glasses. If I told you it was there, you'd look and see it, but otherwise, no one has recoiled in horror. Josh, who is a hypochondriac, told me to go to the doctor immediately, because anything that is going on near your eye means you're going to be struck blind at any second. I shrugged, made jokes about those crazy Paris sinus infections, and figured it would go away.
It has not gone away. It has been nearly four months, and I still have a bump on my eyelid. I continue to be able to see out of both eyes.
At some point, even I got kinda worried, so I decided to consult the internet. Josh said, NO! Do not look it up on the internet because there will be all kinds of horrible misinformation and gruesome pictures and you'll get freaked out and think you're going to die or go blind or go blind and then die because you walked into traffic and I wouldn't even know where to send the mortgage check every month!
Uh huh, I said, typing as he gesticulated wildly. Hey, look, it's called a chalazion. They go away on their own, usually.
Oh, he said. You just looked it up and picked the most likely thing, rather than the worst thing. Huh.
A chalazion is a cyst caused by a block gland in the eyelid. Did you know you have glands in your eyelids? You do. They produce meibum, which keeps your eyes moist and makes your closed eyes airtight. A chalazion is similar to a stye, though a stye is an infection of different set of glands (the glands of Zeis or the glands of Moll, I kid you not) and usually clears up more quickly (though I think they look more gross). Chalazia usually go away on their on within a couple of years, though in rare cases they are surgically removed.
Anyway, one thing you can do to reduce chalazia is to put a hot compress on them. The blockage is basically oil, and the heat will serve to liquefy it, so it can be secreted out. I made my own little compress by putting a scoop of white rice into a sock that had lost its mate and then securing it with a rubber band. I heat the rice sock in the microwave for about a minute and then hold it on my eye. Of course, you can buy a hot compress for your eyes that doesn't make you look like a cheap pirate or smell like rice, but that I'm willing to look stupid in the comfort of my own home to save $25. I had grand plans to sew up a custom hot rice eye patch, complete with an adjustable headband, but I haven't gotten around to it.
The compress seems to be working, though. After I take it off, my vision is very hazy, because I have a film in my eye - all that stored up meibum, I guess. Sometimes, if I use the compress right before bed, I can't even open my eye in the morning without scraping away the ferocious eye booger patch that formed in the night.
So that's the update on my left lower eyelid. I hope you all learned something today, about chalazia and meibum, and of course, the glands of Zeis and Moll.