What is a pingueculum?
A pingueculum is a growth on the conjunctiva. (The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that covers part of the surface of the eye.) The growth looks like a thickened area of tissue and is often cream colored. Some people may notice blood vessels on it. It is called a pingueculum if it does not reach the cornea, the part of the outer layer of your eye that covers the colored part of the eye (the iris). If the pingueculum gets bigger and extends onto the cornea, it is called a pterygium.
How do these growths occur?
These growths may be caused by:
- damaging chemicals
- ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun
If your eyes are often exposed to harsh conditions, these growths are more likely to develop. They are more common in people who live close to the equator.
What are the symptoms?
Most commonly there are no symptoms. If you do have symptoms they may include:
- a dry or gritty feeling
- itching or burning
- blurred vision
How are they treated?
If these growths do not cause any problems, they do not need to be treated. If they cause redness or irritation, you can use eye drops called artificial tears. You can buy these products without a prescription. If you have symptoms that continue or get worse, or if your vision becomes blurred, see your healthcare provider. You may need other medicine if the pingueculum becomes red, irritated, or swollen.
A pterygium may grow and cause vision problems. It can block light entering your eye. Also, a growing pterygium can change the shape of your cornea and cause blurred and distorted vision. A pterygium that causes vision problems can be removed with surgery. Your surgeon may also remove a normal piece of tissue from another part of your eye, or use donor tissue, and put the tissue over the area where the pterygium was removed. Sometimes special medicines are used during surgery. These techniques may help keep the pterygium from coming back.
Any surgery has some risks, including bleeding, infection, and scarring, but these are uncommon with pterygium surgery. Your eye may look red in the area where the pterygium used to be. The main risk is that the growth will come back.
How can they be prevented?
Pterygium and pingueculum happen more often in people who grew up in sunny and windy areas. Wearing sunglasses outdoors may help decrease the chance of developing these growths.