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Pterygium and Pinguecula

A pterygium on an eye

What Is Pterygium?

Pterygium is a benign, elevated growth of tissue that forms on the conjunctiva and the cornea. The cornea is the transparent layer that forms the front of the eye. Pterygium growths usually form on the side closest to your nose and stretch towards the pupil. Pterygium is also known as “Surfer’s Eye.”

What is Pinguecula?

Pinguecula is a yellow deposit or elevation that occurs on the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a clear mucous membrane that lines the inside of the eyelids, preventing microbes from entering the eye. Unlike pterygium, pinguecula forms close to the edge of the cornea but not on the cornea itself.

What Causes Pterygium and Pinguecula?

Both Pterygium and Pinguecula are associated with excessive UV light exposure (i.e. sunlight), wind, and dust. Pterygium and Pinguecula are more prevalent in the Latino community, where they are referred to as “Carnosidades.” Pterygium can cause distortion of the cornea, severely affecting vision or blocking the vision completely. Corneal scarring underneath the Pterygium can also occur, making it very important for them to be removed before becoming too large, permanently affecting the patient’s vision.

Symptoms of both Pterygium and Pinguecula include burning, itching, tearing, redness, and scratchy sensation in the eye. Cosmetically, a Pterygium or Pinguecula can impact the social and professional life of the patient. The affected eye often has a red, distorted appearance. Because of this, many patients state that they are wrongly accused of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Pterygium And Pinguecula Treatment

Pterygium and Pinguecula that cause mild inflammation can usually be treated with steroid drops, lubricant eye drops, or a prescribed ointment. However, these are often times just a temporary solution, and the Pterygium or Pinguecula must eventually be surgically removed. The Pterygium/Pinguecula surgery lasts approximately thirty minutes, and has a recovery time of only a couple of days.

When the Pterygium or Pinguecula is removed, conjunctiva underneath is also extracted. The special “Auto-graft” technique our surgeons at Laser Eye Center use replaces this tissue with the patient’s own conjunctival tissue that is surgically removed from the healthy conjunctiva superiorly (not visible, as it is hidden underneath the upper eyelid). This “self-tissue” is then fixated using medical adhesive. The recurrence of Pterygium or Pinguecula is always a possibility. However, this advanced technique decreases the risk of regression. Protection from the sun, dust and wind is also very important.