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Eyelid Growths

by James Garrity, MD

Noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) growths can form on the eyelids.

Xanthelasma

One of the more common growths is xanthelasma, a yellow-white, flat lump of accumulated fatty material. It is not a true tumor because it is not an abnormal growth of new tissue. Because xanthelasmas may indicate elevated cholesterol levels, especially in young people, a doctor may check the person’s cholesterol level by taking a blood sample. Xanthelasmas do not need to be removed unless their appearance becomes bothersome.

Basal cell carcinoma of the eye

Basal cell carcinoma (see Basal Cell Carcinoma) is a type of skin cancer that frequently occurs at the eyelid margins, at the inner corner of the eyes, and on the upper cheeks. A doctor bases the diagnosis on the results of a biopsy (removal of a tissue sample for examination under a microscope). The growth is usually removed surgically.

Did You Know...

  • A growth on the eyelid that persists for weeks should be removed and examined under a microscope (biopsied) to exclude cancer.

Other cancerous growths of the eyelids

Although less common, squamous cell carcinoma (see Squamous Cell Carcinoma), meibomian gland carcinoma (cancer of glands in the eyelid), and melanoma (see Melanoma) can develop on the eyelid. If a growth on the eyelid does not disappear after several weeks, a doctor may do a biopsy. The growth is usually removed surgically. Eyelid tumors sometimes mimic other eye disorders (such as blepharitis [see Blepharitis] and chalazion [see Chalazion and Stye (Hordeolum)]), so a doctor usually biopsies any growths that do not respond to initial treatments.

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