What are pinguecula and pterygia?
A pingueculum is an abnormal growth of collagen tissue on the conjunctiva (a translucent membrane that surrounds the white sclera). It appears as a yellow-white, flat or slightly elevated lesion. A pterygium is an abnormal growth of collagen onto the cornea (the clear part on the front of your eye that helps focus light onto the retina). It appears as a pink-white fleshy growth of tissue extending from the conjunctiva onto the cornea.
Both conditions are common and caused by harmful exposure to UV light. They are more common in people who live near the equator or work outside. You should always wear UV blocking sunglasses when outside to help prevent the development of these growths.
How are pinguecula and ptyerigia treated?
No treatment is typically needed for a pinguecula and removal of the growth would be solely cosmetic. However, if pinguecula becomes inflamed they can usually be treated with topical drops. Using artificial tears regularly will help prevent the pinguecula from becoming irritated.
When pterygia are small they do not need to be removed. However if the pterygium starts to grow and encroach on the visual axis (the center part of your cornea) or causes astigmatism that cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts, it may need to be removed with an outpatient surgical procedure. The tissue is sometimes replaced with a conjunctival or amniotic membrane graft depending on how much tissue is removed. Following the procedure, you will take drops for several weeks to make sure the tissue heals properly.