Pinguecula and Pterygium

June 19, 2013

Pingueculae and pterygia are growths which can affect vision and the comfort of the eyes. They are often indicators of a patient who enjoys outdoor activities as UV light, wind, and dust exposure can instigate the development of either condition. While neither of these conditions are usually indicative of malignancy, any growth on the surface of the eye should be investigated properly by a medical eye care professional.


A pinguecula is a yellowish patch or bump on the conjunctiva (the “white” of the eye) near the cornea (the clear cap of the eye). Most often pingueculae will appear on the side of the eye closest to the nose (the nasal portion of the eye). They may appear similar to a callus on the skin of the eye. Pingueculae can progress into a pterygium.


A pterygium is an often triangle-shaped growth of fleshy tissue of the conjunctiva that eventually extends over the cornea. Pterygia may encroach on the center of the eye, obstructing vision significantly. Pterygia often develop from pingueculae. Pterygia may be significant enough to change astigmatic prescription, as well.


Both pingueculae and pterygia can be irritating to the ocular surface, causing itching, burning, foreign body sensations, and grittiness; vision may be distorted; finally, aesthetic dissatisfaction is a common result of both conditions.


Treatment for both pingueculae and pterygia include surgical removal, monitoring, and topical steroid drops. Surgical removal may be effective, but both conditions have a degree of recurrence likelihood.


While no factors can fully prevent pterygia or pingueculae development, wearing wraparound sunglasses when outdoors, wearing safety eyewear in dry, dusty conditions, and using artificial tears in dry conditions can aide in reducing risks for either condition.