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Understand your eyelid lump symptoms, including 3 causes & common questions.
Eyelid lump symptoms
It may begin slowly with a scratchy sensation or mild throbbing that you've tried your best to ignore. Perhaps you've "spent too long looking at the computer screen" or "need to change your contacts," you tell yourself, trying to explain away your eyelid discomfort. But a glance in the mirror reveals your worst fear: an unsightly eyelid lump or bump for the world to see.
The area around the eye, including the eyelid, is made up of a complex system of ducts and glands that make not only tears but also oils that work to keep the area moist and clean of any contaminants. There are also hair follicles for eyelashes that provide vital protection. It's easy to take them for granted when everything is working properly, but any issue can be uncomfortable.
Since the ducts are small openings that allow oils to exit, they are vulnerable to swelling or infection, especially if contaminated from the outside. When this happens, eyelid lumps can appear. Hair follicles can also become infected and, in certain cases, eyelid lumps can be a sign of a more serious medical condition.
Common characteristics and accompanying symptoms of an eyelid lump
If you have a lump on your eyelid, it can likely be described by the following:
What causes an eyelid lump?
Inflammatory and infectious causes
Common eyelid lump causes fall under these categories:
- Infection: Both viruses and bacteria can find their way into the ducts or hair follicles and cause an infection. Infectious lumps are usually red, warm, and painful.
- Swelling: Sometimes inflammation can occur without an infection or after one has healed, leading to a painless lump somewhere around the eye that can vary in size.
These medical conditions increase the risk of eyelid lumps as they make people more prone to inflammation and duct blockages.
- Rosacea: This is a skin disorder that makes people blush more easily than usual. It can also cause red, irritated eyes and bumpy skin.
- Acne: Commonly associated with teenage years, this pimply condition involves blockage of hair follicles on the face.
- Conjunctivitis: Inflammation of the tissue that lines the eyelid and eyeball may irritate surrounding areas.
- Blepharitis: This generalized inflammation of the eyelid margins may be a precursor to eyelid lumps.
Less common causes
Less commonly, the following causes may present as an eyelid lump.
- Sign of high cholesterol: Less commonly, eyelid lumps that are yellow and painless with sharp borders may be a buildup of cholesterol that comes from the blood, which may be a sign of unhealthy cholesterol levels.
- Skin cancer: In rare cases, bumps that last for a longer time or grow in size may be a type of skin cancer that affects the eyelid.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Inflamed eyelid (blepharitis)
Inflamed eyelid, or blepharitis, is a bacterial infection of the skin at the base of the eyelashes.
If the oil glands around the eyelashes become clogged, normal skin bacteria will multiply in the oil and cause infection. The glands can become blocked due to dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows; allergies to eye makeup or contact lens solution; or eyelash mites or lice.
Symptoms include red, swollen, painful eyelids; oily, dandruff-like flakes of skin at the base of the eyelashes; and eyelashes that grow abnormally or fall out.
If the symptoms do not clear with hygiene, see a medical provider. Blepharitis can become chronic and lead to infections of the eyelids and cornea; dry eyes which cannot take contact lenses; and scarring and deformity of the eyelids.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination of the eyelids, under magnification and through skin swab of the eyelashes.
Treatment includes warm compresses and careful washing of the eyelids; antibiotics in pill or cream form; steroid eyedrops; and treatment for any underlying condition such as dandruff or rosacea.
Top Symptoms: eye itch, sensitivity to light, eye redness, feeling of something in the eye, dry eyes
Symptoms that never occur with inflamed eyelid (blepharitis): severe eye pain
Stye and chalazion
A stye (or hordeolum) is an infection in the upper or lower eyelid. There are three glands around the eye and one of them is infected.
Top Symptoms: swelling of one eyelid, redness around the eye, feeling of something in the eye, eyelid lump, eyelid pain
Symptoms that always occur with stye and chalazion: swelling of one eyelid
Symptoms that never occur with stye and chalazion: fever
Whiteheads are caused by hair follicles becoming clogged with oil & dead skin cells. When the clogged pore is closed to the air by a layer of skin cells, the oil/dead skin cells remains white (as opposed to a blackhead).
Top Symptoms: small facial lump, yellow or white facial bump
Symptoms that always occur with whitehead: small facial lump, yellow or white facial bump
Eyelid lump treatments and relief
When eyelid lumps appear, it's no time to panic. Most resolve by themselves in a few days, though there are home remedies that can speed the process along. If the lumps do not resolve on their own or they become especially bothersome, your doctor may intervene with medications or procedures.
How to keep an eyelid lump from getting worse
First, resist the most common urges:
- Hands off: Your dirty hands may have contaminated your eyelids and caused the problem in the first place. We touch our eyes many times per day, even if we don't realize it. Try to avoid touching the eyes or eyelids unless washing your hands immediately beforehand.
- Don't squeeze: While this may seem like quick fix, squeezing can actually make the swelling worse and spread the problem to other parts of your eye.
At-home treatments for an eyelid lump
The following are some easy, common sense ways to address your eyelid lump at home.
- Clean your contacts: Just like dirty hands, dirty contact lenses can contaminate the eyes, causing irritation that leads to lumps. Be sure to do regular cleanings according to the manufacturer's instructions or ask your doctor for further advice.
- Eyelid hygiene: Very gently washing the eyelid with clean, warm water or very dilute baby shampoo can wash away bacteria and other contaminants that cause irritation.
- Eye drops: Over-the-counter drops keep the eyes clear and moist. Don't forget to check the expiration date and make sure the liquid is not cloudy, especially if the bottle has been in your cabinet for a while.
- Warm compresses: Apply a comfortably warm cloth or tissue to the closed eyelid for about 10 minutes four times per day. This helps to unclog blocked ducts and clear away oil buildup.
- Massage: Gently rubbing the eyelids with clean hands or a cloth can also treat clogged ducts.
When to see a doctor for an eyelid lump
If the above steps don't help or you are otherwise concerned, visit your doctor, who may try some of the following eyelid lump treatment techniques:
- Drainage: A particularly nasty, infected duct or hair follicle may benefit from drainage with a small needle by a trained professional.
- Steroid creams or injections: These prescription medications go after the inflammation that is the underlying cause of most eyelid bumps.
- Antibiotics: These are reserved for difficult-to-treat eyelid bumps that are thought to be due to bacteria.
- Surgery: Persistent bumps can be removed in the operating room. This is typically done for cosmetic reasons.
When an eyelid lump is an emergency
It's best to see your doctor without delay if you have:
- Trouble seeing
- Pain or pressure in the eye
- Protrusion of the eyeball
- Excessive eye discharge: Especially if it is thick or discolored
FAQs about eyelid lump
What is infant milia and does it go away on its own?
Milia are white bumps usually seen along the face of an infant caused by buildup of keratin (the material in nails or hair), and oil from sebaceous glands. The bumps are often found on the face and cheeks of child and will disappear with time. They should not be "popped" or picked and they do not cause any harm to the child.
What is an eyelid lump if it's not a stye?
An eyelid lump can be caused by many things, depending on a person's age, gender, and general health. Bumps and markings include collections of cholesterol (xanthelasma), an infection on the inner eyelid (chalazion), and any number of wart-like lesions such as an epidermal inclusion cyst or dermoid cyst, or, more rarely, malignant cancers [4,6]. A medical professional can elicit the differences. You should visit a medical professional if the lump is quickly growing or if you experience any change in vision.
Why is my eyelid bump causing blurred vision?
Lesions on the eyelid do not usually cause blurred vision. Common bumps occur because of blockage of the oil or sweat glands or infections of the hair follicles of the eye lashes. It is both worrisome and infrequent to have an "eyelid bump" that causes blurred vision. If you have sudden onset blurred vision you should visit an emergency department for urgent evaluation.
How long does an eyelid lump last for?
Depending on the cause, a mass on the eyelid may last for a few weeks or be permanent. An eyelid lump that is caused by an infection of the skin or hair follicles will usually disappear along with any redness or pain within a few days to two weeks. An eyelid bump that is from a benign or malignant tumor will need to be removed immediately and will not disappear on its own.
What do recurring eyelid lumps mean?
Recurring eyelid lumps may mean different things depending on the cause. Most commonly, recurrent eyelid lumps may be due to recurrent infections. Styes occur when the eye is unable to get rid of wastes and bacteria and they build up similar to the formation of a pimple. This can occur if eye coverings like night masts or eye patches are too tight.
Questions your doctor may ask about eyelid lump
- Do you have dry eyes?
- Do your eyelids feel sticky?
- Does light bother your eyes more than usual?
- What color is the bump?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
Dr. Wilkinson received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his BA from Princeton University where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Princetonian. He is currently a resident in psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Outside of the hospital, Jack worked as an editor at The JoongAng Daily of South Korea and a freelance writer.
- Anatomy of the Eye. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Updated March 2017. AAPOS Link.
- Carter SR. Eyelid Disorders: Diagnosis and Management. American Family Physician. 1998;57(11):2695-2702. AAFP Link.
- Eyelid Problems. NHS. Updated August 9, 2017. NHS Link.
- Bain J. Focus on Eyelid Skin Cancers: Early Detection and Treatment. The Skin Cancer Foundation. Published September 25, 2018. The Skin Cancer Foundation Link.
- Lusby FW. Eyelid Bump. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated August 20, 2016. MedlinePlus Link.
- Boyd K. What Are Chalazia and Styes? American Academy of Ophthalmology. Published September 1, 2017. AAO Link.