What are Pinguecula and Pterygium (Surfer’s Eye)?

Pinguecula and pterygium are growths on your eye’s conjunctiva, the clear covering on the white of the eye.

Pinguecula are yellowish raised growths on the conjunctiva. It’s usually on the side of the eye near your nose, but it can happen on the other side too. Pinguecula may contain deposits of protein, fat, or calcium.

A pterygium is a growth of fleshy tissue (having blood vessels) that may start as a pinguecula. It can stay small or grow large enough to partially cover the cornea. When this happens, it can affect your vision.

Pinguecula and pterygium are believed to be caused by a combination of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, wind, and dust.

Avoid pinguecula and pterygium

If you’ve had a pinguecula or pterygium at least once before, try to avoid the things that cause these growths. Here are some ways:

  • wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • protect your eyes from dust by wearing glasses or goggles
  • use artificial tears when your eyes are dry

Pinguecula and pterygium symptoms can range from mild to severe. They include:

  • redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, mostly as the pterygium grows
    yellow spots or bumps on the whites of your eyes
  • dry, itchy, burning eyes. Or feeling like you have sand or grit stuck in your eye
    blurred vision

Pinguecula treatment

In most cases pinguecula and pterygium do not need to be treated. However, if your eyes are uncomfortable or your vision is affected, you may need pinguecula treatment.

Drops to lubricate your eyes can help relieve irritation from pinguecula. They also help relieve that annoying feeling as if you have something in your eye. If a pinguecula causes redness and swelling in your eye, your doctor may prescribe steroid eye drops.

Usually eye drops can relieve the discomfort of the pinguecula, and surgery is usually not recommended or necessary.

Pterygium treatment

Your eye doctor can treat the discomfort, redness or swelling of the pterygium with lubricating or steroid eyedrops.

If the pterygium grows large enough to cause problems, your eye doctor may recommend surgery to remove it. After the pterygium is removed, your surgeon can transplant a thin piece of normal tissue into the affected area. This technique helps reduce the chances of your pterygium growing back.

The best way to keep pinguecula and pterygium from reappearing is to stay out of the sun, dryness and dust.

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