PInguecula: What Is It?

A benign growth – that is non-cancerous – that develops on the eye is called a pinguecula. It grows on the thin tissue layer over the white of the eye, called the conjunctiva. A pinguecula can happen at any time but those who are middle-aged and elderly are more likely to get it. The growths can usually be left without any other form of treatment.

The View of a Pinguecula

This type of growth is yellow in color and shaped like a triangle. There are raised patches near the cornea – the transparent layer over the iris (the colored part) and pupil. These growths usually grow on the side near your nose but they can appear on the other side of the eye. It is possible for them to get larger over a long period of time, but this happens rarely.

Pinguecula Causes

The growths happen when there are changes in the conjunctiva and small bumps appear. These can be full of calcium, protein and fat or have protein and one of the other two. The causes for the change aren’t fully understood yet but there are links to wind, dust and sunlight. As people get older, the growths can happen more frequently. People over 80 will usually have at least one pinguecula (Smolin et al., 2005).

Pinguecula Symptoms

The main symptom is the eye feeling dry and irritated. There could also be the feeling that something else is within your eye or that there is something gritty inside, like sand or other types of rough particles. It can also become inflamed and red and may itch. Some patients experience mild symptoms while others experience severe ones. Your eye doctor will be able to help diagnose the condition completely based on location and appearance.

Comparing Pterygia and Pinguecula

A pterygia is another type of growth that happens in the eye. Like the pinguecula it is benign and grows close to the cornea. This is also linked to wind and sun exposure, along with other harsh elements.

The two growths look completely different. A pterygia looks like the color of fleshand is elongated/oval shaped more often than not. The growth will likely grow over the cornea, which the pinguecula doesn’t. When the pinguecula starts to grow over the cornea, the name changes to a pterygia (Smolin et al., 2005).

Treatments for a Pinguecula

Most of the time, no treatment is needed. The only times treatment is necessary are when there is discomfort, the eye hurts or there is other redness and irritation. This treatment is usually in the form of drops or ointments placed into the eye.

Where the appearance is a bother, it is sometimes possible to have it removed. There are times that it will need to be removed through surgery, including:

  • When it affects the vision by growing over the cornea
  • When it causes discomfort for contact lens wearers
  • When it is severely inflamed all the time, even after using ointments and drops

The Future for Pinguecula Patients

Most of these growths will not cause a bother. When surgery is needed, there are very rare complications but it is possible that the growth comes back. It is possible to have surface radiation or medications to help prevent a re-growth.

Preventing a Pinguecula

Those who spend time outside, whether for hobbies or work, will find that they are more likely to get one of these growths but this can be prevented through the use of sunglasses. Opt for sunglasses with coating against the UVA and UVB sun rays. The sunglasses can also protect the eyes from other outdoor elements, including the wind and sand. Artificial tears can also help to keep the eyes moist. If you work around dust or in dry environments, use protective glasses for the eyes.