What are pterygia and pingueculas?
Pterygia and pingueculas are among the most commonly encountered eye conditions treated by Ophthalmologists. It is a fleshy appearing growth of conjunctival tissue. The conjunctiva is the clear membrane which covers the white portion or sclera of the eye. The growth usually begins in the corner of the eye closest to the nose. A pinguecula is sometimes a precursor to a pterygium. If the pinguecula continues to proliferate onto the cornea (the clear outer layer of the front of the eye) it is known as a pterygium. When this happens, vision loss may occur.
What causes pterygia and pingueculas and how do I know if I have this condition?
The growth is usually white in color, but it may also be gray or yellow. They are more commonly seen in people from sunny or windy climates. People who are exposed to UV radiation and do not wear eye protection are more likely to develop a pinguecula or pterygia.
Pingueculas are usually benign causing only tearing and irritation. Pterygia generally cause more symptoms. In more severe cases of pterygia, there can be tension on the cornea and astigmatism (irregularly shaped cornea) develops, requiring correction with astigmatic glasses.
How are pterygia and pingueculas treated?
Less severe pterygia and pingueculas can be left untreated and do not cause any discomfort to the individual. Artificial tears or lubricating eye drops can be used for irritation. If irritation persists despite the eye drops a small percentage of people with pingueculas may benefit from surgical removal. Advanced pterygia may grow to such an extent that they may block vision. In these cases, surgery is usually required.
Surgical removal of pterygia or pingueculae can typically be performed under local anesthesia with the patient returning home the same day.