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Pinguecula and Pterygium

Pinguecula and Pterygium

What Is Pinguecula and Pterygium?

Pinguecula and Pterygium are two types of eye-growths which are often confused. Both conditions are non-malignant, slow-growing proliferations of conjunctival connective tissue in the eye. In this article we learn how to distinguish between the two.


pinguecula Pinguecula and Pterygium

Pingueculae are slightly raised lesions that form near the cornea on the surface tissue of the sclera (the whites of the eye). They are typically found in the palpebral fissure, the area between your eyelids which is most exposed to the sun.

Pingueculae are a common occurrence in middle-aged or older people who spend larger amounts of time in the sun, however they can also be found in younger people who spend significant time in the sun without protection such as sunglasses or hats.

Pinguecula Signs and Symptoms

In most people, pingueculae cause few symptoms. A pinguecula that has been irritated by wind, dust, dry conditions or over exposure to sun may create a feeling that something is lodged in the eye.

In some cases, pingueculae can become swollen and inflamed – a condition known as pingueculitis.

Treatment of Pinguecula

Treatments for pinguculae range depending on severity of symptoms. Steroid eye drops or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be administered to patients with significant inflammation and swelling of the eye. Lubricating eye drops are prescribed for those with less irritating symptoms.

If symptoms interfere with the vision, surgical removal of the pinguecula may be considered.

If left untreated, pingueculae can often lead to the formation of pterygia.


pterygium Pinguecula and Pterygium

Pterygium form as wedge- or wing-shaped growths of benign fibrous tissue typically located on surface the sclera. As with pinguecula, ptergium may be caused by prolonged exposure to UV light from the sun.

Pterygia resembles tissue or film growing over the eye and in extreme cases; pterygia may grow onto the eye’s cornea and interfere with vision.

Pterygium Signs and Symptoms

For many people pterygium does not cause any noticeable symptoms however some pterygia may become red and swollen on occasion, some may become large or thick. These visible symptoms may create the feeling that something is in the eye, and may also cause concern about appearance.

If left untreated, large and advanced pterygia may cause a distortion on the surface of the cornea and induce astigmatism.

How a Pterygium Is Treated

Ptergium is treated in much the same way as Pingueculae. Patients with lesser symptoms may be prescribed lubricating eye drops; more serve cases may call for the use of steroid eye drops or anti inflammatory drugs.

In some cases, surgical removal of the pterygia is necessary. There are several surgical techniques that can be used to remove pterygia; depending on severity of symptoms, your doctor will determine which procedure is most suitable.

For patients with milder symptoms, pterygia can be removed under a topical anesthetic which is applied directly to the eye prior to surgery. Your eye lids will be kept open with an eyelid speculum while the pterygium is removed; this procedure usually takes around 30 minutes.

After surgery you will be required to wear and eye patch for at least a day and if there are no complications you should be able to return to work and other normal activities within 2 days.

Unfortunately, pterygia often return after surgical removal. In fact, the recurrence rate is between 3 percent and 40 percent. To prevent regrowth after the pterygium is surgically removed, your eye surgeon may suture or glue a piece of surface eye tissue onto the affected area. This method, called autologous conjunctival autografting, is very safe and has a low recurrence rate.

A drug (antimetabolite) that slows metabolic processes contributing to tissue growth, such as mitomycin, may be applied topically. After removal of the pterygium, steroid eye drops may be used for several weeks to decrease swelling and prevent regrowth.

It is important to note that pterygium removal can also induce astigmatism, especially in patients who already have astigmatism.

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