Pterygium & Pinguecula

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What Is It?

A pterygium is a fleshy growth that invades the cornea (the clear front window of the eye). It is an abnormal process in which the conjuctiva (a membrane that covers the white of the eye) grows into the cornea. A pterygium may be small or grow large enough to interfere with vision and commonly occurs on the inner corner of the eye.


What causes a pterygium?

The exact cause is not well understood. A pterygium occurs more often in people who spend a great deal of time outdoors, espically in sunny climates. Long-term exposure to sunlight, espically ultraviolet (UV) rays, and chronic eye irritation from dry, dusty conditions seem to play an important role.


How is a pterygium treated?

When a pterygium becomes red and irritated, topical eyedrops or ointments may be used to help reduce the inflammation. If the pterygium is large enough to threaten sight, is growing or is unsightly, it can be removed surgically.

Despite proper surgical removal, the tperygium may return, particularly in young people.Surface radiation or medications are sometimes used to help prevent recurrences. Protecting the eyes from excessive ultraviolet sunlight with proper sunglasses and advoiding dry, dusty conditions may also help.

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What is pinguecula?

A pinguecula is a yellowish patch or bump on the white of the eye, most often on the side 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 pinguecula may also be a response to chronic eye irritation or sunlight.


How is a pinguecula treated?

No treatment is necessary unless it becomes inflamed. A pinguecula does not grow onto the cornea or threaten sight. If particularly annoying, a pinguecula may on rare occasions be surgically removed, but the post-operative scar may be as cosmetically objectionable as the pinguecula.


Why are regular medical eye examinations important for everyone?

Eye disease can occur at any age. Many eye diseases do not cause symptoms until the disease has done damage. Since most blindness is preventable if diagnosed and treated early, regular medical examinations by an ophthalmologist are very important.