Pinguecula and Pterygium

Created on: Thursday, March 07, 2013

Author: Khoa D. Hoang, M.D., See Clearly Vision

Pinguecula and pterygium are yellowish or white growths that appear on the front of the eyes, usually in the nasal portion. They are non-cancerous and common in their occurrences. The presence of these nodular growths may cause some ocular discomfort and changes in vision. 
A pinguecula is a small nodule that grows on the white part of the eye, known as the sclera. The cause of the nodule is not known, but long-term exposure to sunlight is thought to be a contributing factor. They are present in many people, but most are unaware because they have no symptoms. Those that are symptomatic will complain of feeling a small particle in their eye or ocular dryness. Often times, the use of lubricating drops will remedy the issue. Pingueculae will likely remain stable and cause very few symptoms. Conversely, they can progress in size and become what is known as a pteyrgium.   
A pterygium is a wing-shaped growth that has moved from the white part of the eye (sclera) onto the clear portion of the eye, known as the cornea. It will also have a nodular appearance, and will be white. The pterygium can cause the area surrounding it to become red and irritated. These patients may also complain of the eye feeling dry, more so than with a pinguecula. In some cases, the growth will progress and grow into the central visual axis near the pupil. This will cause a decrease in clear vision. In order to relieve the dryness, moisturizing drops may provide relief of symptoms. However, the growth may be large enough that lubricating drops don’t help enough. When vision is impaired and ocular discomfort persists, surgical removal may be the next step in treatment. Visit your nearby eye care provider for a complete evaluation. 

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