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.
A pterygium is a fleshy, wedge-shaped growth that invades the cornea (the clear front covering of the eye). It is an abnormal non-cancerous process in which the conjunctiva (a membrane that covers the white of the eye) grows into the cornea. A pinquecula may progress to become a pterygium.
Causes of Pterygium and Pinguecula
Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet and infrared radiation from sunlight has been implicated. Other environmental irritants, such as dust and wind, may play a role as well. People who spend considerable time in the sun are much more likely to have pinguecula or pterygia. Susceptible groups include individuals who work outdoors such as farmers and fishermen or those who engage in outdoor activities such as skiing, golfing and gardening.
Pinquecula usually do not cause any symptoms unless they become inflamed.
Pterygium may cause one or more of the following symptoms:
Since pinquecula and pterygia are most commonly caused by exposure to the sun and other environmental stimuli, protecting the eyes from sun, dust and wind is recommended. This can be done by wearing hats and sunglasses. Most pinquecula require no treatment. If they become inflamed and swollen, lubricating eye drops (artificial tears) alone or in combination with steroid eye drops can be used for relief.
Treatment for pterygia depend on their size, location, and degree of inflammation. If they are small and minimally inflamed, lubricating and steroid eye drops can be used. If they enlarge and grow unto the cornea they are usually surgically removed for two reasons; they become cosmetically unsightly, and or they can blur the vision by either causing astigmatism or covering part or the entire pupil.
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