Pterygium & Pinguecula
A pterygium is a noncancerous growth on the fleshy tissue that grows over the cornea (the clear front window of the eye). It may remain small or grow large enough to interfere with vision. A pterygium usually occurs on the inner corner of the eye, but can appear on the outer corner.
What Causes Pterygium?
The exact cause is not well understood, but pterygium occurs more often in people who spend a great deal of time outdoors, especially in sunny climates. Long-term exposure to sunlight, especially ultraviolet (UV) rays, and dry, dusty conditions seem to play a role. When a pterygium becomes red and irritated, eye drops or ointments may be used to help reduce the inflammation. If it’s large enough to threaten sight or grows rapidly, it can be removed surgically.
What is Pinguecula?
A pinguecula is a yellowish patch or bump on the white of the eye, usually on the side closest to the nose. Some patients worry that it’s a tumor, but it’s actually an alteration of normal tissue from protein and fat deposits. Unlike a pterygium, a pinguecula doesn’t actually grow onto the cornea, nor does it interfere with vision. However, long-term exposure to sunlight or chronic eye irritation seems to be a cause.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Pinguecula
No treatment is necessary unless it becomes inflamed. Lubricating eye drops or ointments or possibly a mild steroid eye drop may be used to help reduce inflammation. If a pinguecula becomes large enough to threaten sight or cause persistent discomfort, it can be removed surgically. They are sometimes removed for cosmetic reasons.