Pingueculae are yellowish, raised lesions that form on the conjunctiva, or the “white part” of the eye. Pingueculae form from an alteration of normal tissue, which results in a deposit of protein and fat. Though the cause is unknown, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet and infrared radiation from sunlight has been linked to the development of pingueculae.
Signs and Symptoms:
A pinguecula generally does not produce symptoms, though if irritated, it may feel like something is trapped in the eye. In some cases, pingueculae become infected and inflamed. This condition is called pingueculitis, and results in eye redness and irritation, which is exacerbated by certain conditions such as wind, dust, or extreme dry weather.
Pinguecula treatment depends on the severity of the symptom. Lubricating eye drops may be prescribed for mild pingueculitis to relieve dryness. Steroid or anti-inflammatory eye drops may also be prescribed to relieve significant swelling and inflammation. In extreme cases, surgical removal of a pinguecula may be considered if it begins to interfere with wearing contacts, vision, or blinking.
A pterygium is a fleshy growth that resembles a film or tissue growing over the eye. It occurs when the conjunctiva invades the cornea, or the clear front window of the eye. This overgrowth of conjunctiva is what gives the lesion its unsightly appearance. As with a pinguecula, pterygium is likely caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolent light from the sun.
Signs and Symptoms:
Many people with pterygium do not experience any symptoms, though the growth may become red or swollen when infected. It may also become large or thick, giving the feeling of a foreign object in the eye. Advanced pterygium will be visible as a film on the eye, and the patient may wish to have it removed for aesthetic purposes. However, surgery is often unsuccessful, as pterygium has a reoccurrence rate of often 40-50% post-procedure.
If a pterygium is small, but becomes inflames, it may be treated with lubricating eye drops or steroids for inflammation relief. As noted, surgical removal is an option, though not generally necessary. Dr. Marr, Dr. Houser or Dr. Van Cleave can help you determine the best treatment plan for you.