A pinguecula is a small, slightly raised yellow growth that forms on the sclera (white of the eye). Pingueculae are often confused with a pterygium, however pingueculae generally do not grow over the cornea (the clear front cover of the eye).
Pinguecula is a non-cancerous growth and is nothing to be fearful of. It is a very common condition and is often found in people who spend a significant amount of time in sunlight. It is not usually associated with pain but more a cosmetic issue.
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Who gets this eye condition?
Pinguecula are usually caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Hence, a pinguecula is more common amongst people who spend a great deal of time outdoors. Irritants, such as dust can also contribute to this eye condition, so people who work in dry, dusty environments, such as farmers, builders and stockmen, can also be more prone. But this condition can spontaneously appear in a normal, healthy eye in any environment.
When should I worry?
Pinguecula can mimic early pterygium, which can then go on to become a full pterygium, growing across your cornea. These require surgical treatment if they cover a significant portion of your cornea, distort your vision or cause cosmetic concerns.
Pinguecula itself is always benign but it can resemble rarer, more serious lesions of the conjunctiva, including carcinoma in situ (a type of localised tumor) and squamous cell carcinoma. These are more common in elderly patients, but over all, are very rare. If your nodule seems to be changing size, shape or colour, always see your eye specialist to rule out the possibility of malignancies.
Treatment and Protection
Wearing UV protective sunglasses is highly important in preventing or slowing down the growth of a pinguecula.
Pingueculae generally cause only mild symptoms of irritation and a gritty feeling in the eye. In some cases a pinguecula can become inflamed and require eye drops to reduce the inflammation.
In severe cases where the pinguecula is interfering with vision, causing discomfort with blinking or making contact lens wear increasingly uncomfortable, surgical removal may be considered. Pingueculae may also lead to the development of a pterygium.
If you think you may behave developed a pinguecula, contact The Eye Practice to make an appointment with one of our friendly optometrists on (02) 9290 1899.
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