Pinguecula and Pterygium

What is a pinguecula and pterygium? 

A pinguecula is a yellowinsh patch or bump on the white part of the eye, most often on the inner side of the eye closest to the nose. It is not a tumor, but an alteration of normal tissue resulting in a deposit of protein and fat. Unlike a pterygium, a pinguecula does not actually grow onto the cornea.

 

A pterygium is a fleshy tissue that grows over the cornea (the clear front window of the eye). It can either remain small or grow large enough to interfere with vision. A pterygium most commonly occurs on the inner corner of the eye but can occur on the outer corner as well. It can be yellow, gray, white, or clear in color and is seen less commonly than pingueculae. 

 

What are the symptoms of a pinguecula and pterygium?

Generally for a pinguecula, there are no symptoms. Patients can sometimes complain of a foreign body sensation, or general grittiness or irritation in the eyes. There can also be dryness, irritation, and redness. Contact lens wear is often uncomfortable. Generally symptoms only show up when the pinguecula is inflamed, a condition called pingueculitis.

 

Pterygia can also go years without having no symptoms. Yet, when symptoms appear patients complain of redness, swelling, itrching, irritation, and blurred vision. An advanced pterygium can actually cause some astigmatism in the affected eye.  

 

What causes a pinguecula and pterygium? 

Although the exact cause is not well understood, a pinguecula andpterygium is thought to be either due to chronic eye irritation or sunlight exposure. 

Who develops a pinguecula and pterygium? 

These conditions are more common in middle aged and older adults that spend a great deal of time outdoors, especially in sunny climates. Long-term exposure to sunlight, especially ultraviolet (UV) rays, and chronic eye irritation from dry, dusty conditions seem to play an important causal role. A genetic component may also be a factor. 

How is a pinguecula and pterygium? 

Your optometrist at Visualeyes Optometry screens for pingueculae and pterygia using various high-tech equipment at every annual examination. If diagnosed, we will explain to you about the condition and treatment options. 

If you notice one of these or it is bothering you, please schedule a medical eye examination with our office so we can help you out! 

How is a pinguecula and pterygium treated?

No treatment is usually necessary for a pinguecula unless it becomes inflamed. A pinguecula does not grow onto the cornea or threaten sight. If paricularly annnoying, artificial tears may be used. Be sure to consult our optometrists on the correct eye drop, since there are so many on the market today, and not all of these will help this condition. On rare occassion the pinguecula may be surgically removed, but the postoperative scar may be as objectionable as the pinguecula.  

When a pterygium becomes red and irritated, eyedrops (steroids) or ointments may be used to help reduce the inflammation. If the pterygium is either large enough to threaten sight, is growing, or is unsightly, it can be removed surgically. Utilizing local/ topical anesthesia and mild sedation, these lesons can be removed as an outpatient in surgical centers. 

Despite surgical removal, the pterygium may return, particulary in young people. Surface radiation or medications are sometimes used to prevent recurrences. In today's world, new advances are usually used at time of surgery,  including amniotic membrane grafts to prevent the chances of recurrence. With these grafts, normally sutures are not required as well. 

Protecting the eyes form excessive ultraviolet light with proper sunglasses and avoiding dry, dusty conditions and use of artifiial tears may help prevent a pinguecula or pterygium in the first place! 

What is the prognosis of a pinguecula and pterygium?

Most pingueculae and pterygua do not cause too much damage, as long as they are treated properly. You and your optometrist can take steps to prevent or manage these conditions with regular checkups and proper treatment.