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Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Pinguecula

Updated on April 27, 2016

Pinguecula Pictures

What is Pinguecula?

It is a conjunctival degeneration that is common in they eye. It is a non-cancerous growth that develops on the eye. It is a deposit of fat and protein. It grows on the thin layer of tissue that is over the white part of the eye and is called the conjunctiva. It will usually happen on the side of the eye that is closest to your nose. It does not affect your vision. The plural form of the word is pingueculae. Although they can happen to anyone at any age it is most common in elderly and middle-age people. If you are going to be outdoors for any long period off time you should wear sunglasses that have a coating on the lens that help to block out the Ultraviolet Rays and UVB rays of the sun.

Symptoms

Pinguecula will rarely cause symptoms but they can cause irritation if they become elevated. Usually the first symptom is when a person notices a bump on the surface of their eye without having any other type of symptoms. The symptoms can be severe or mild. Some of the symptoms that may be noticed with this medical condition include:

  • Being yellowish in color
  • Scratchiness and irritation
  • Having dry eyes
  • The conjunctiva could become inflamed occasionally.
  • Redness when irritated
  • It can appear on either side of your cornea
  • It can increase in size over time.
  • You may feel like you have something in your eye when there really is nothing there.
  • You could have a gritty feeling in your eye.

Causes

The cause of this medical condition occurs when your conjunctiva changes resulting in a small bump being created. These bumps can contain either calcium or fat, can contain just protein, and some contain all three, calcium, protein, and fat. Scientists are not sure exactly what causes this change in you eye. Scientist and researchers have linked this medical condition to frequent exposure to wind, the infrared radiation and ultraviolet rays from sunlight, or dust. As you get older it can become more common. It could also be caused by irritation of your eye. One job related risk of developing Pinguecula is welding. If you are more of an outdoor person, you are most apt to develop this medical condition than people who stay indoors a lot.

Diagnosis

Usually it can be seen by just looking at but in order to diagnosis the growth it should be examined carefully using a "slit lamp microscope".

Treatment

Because they are benign tumors they will usually not require any type of treatment. If Pinguecula becomes inflamed and causes dryness your ophthalmologist or physician may prescribe artificial tears to help lubricate your eyes. You can also buy liquid tears over-the-counter. If the eye appears to be swollen you may be prescribed a mild anti-inflammatory medicine to help reduce it.

The physician may prescribe mild steroid eye drops to be used on a temporary basis.

Surgery

It is very rare that a person has to have surgery but if the appearance of the Pinguecula bothers you the physician or ophthalmologist could remove it. They may consider surgery to remove it for many different reasons such as:

  • Your vision is affected because it has grown over your cornea and causes astigmatism.
  • If you are wearing contact lenses and it is extremely uncomfortable
  • If it is severely inflamed and stays that way even after you used the ointments or eye drops
  • If it becomes uncomfortable due to the sensation of having a chronic foreign body in your eye or your eye becomes extremely dry.

If you opt to have the Pinguecula surgically removed you can have disappointing results. Even though they are using the most modern techniques there is a rate of them coming back with the rate being between fifty and sixty percent. It is not recommended that a person have the surgery unless it is causing severe problems. The surgery will be done as an outpatient and they will use local anesthesia. It is not common to have pain after the surgery.

When you have surgery it can take several weeks to heal. During the healing process you will usually have to apply typical ointments or eye drops many times during the day. When it first begins to heal your eye may seem to look a little bloodshot and swollen but that will eventually go away.

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